Madison might have been a little nervous yesterday, but she never showed it. She waited patiently and then, for the first time, she donated blood. "She is only doing her dog Samaritan duty," said Maddie's owner and second year Veterinary student Heather Clauser. Three years ago, Blood Bank Coordinator Donna Oakley pioneered this voluntary out-patient blood donor clinic at the hospital. Today, the University has the only large-scale donor program in the country for dogs. The hospital performs three to five transfusions each day on dogs and depends on the bank for 90 percent of its blood. About 500 dogs have contributed blood to the bank over the three years, some of them many times. Any dog that gives to the bank is entitled to free blood for transfusions if they ever need it. In addition, all dogs are rewarded with a little star on their forehead for donating blood -- a benefit Maddie seemed to enjoy. Maddie's owner said she was not worried taking her furry friend to the blood bank because the dogs are at virtually no risk. In addition, if the dog, the owner or the nurses are feeling any type of "stress," the donation appointment will be cancelled for the day, according to Oakley. Once everyone has given their consent, the dog lies on his side while two nurses and his owner hold him still. Most of the time the dogs are very cooperative, and if they aren't, the procedure is stopped. "They only feel a pinch when the needle goes through the skin," staff nurse Ali Culp said yesterday. "Otherwise, they don't feel any pain." After only five minutes, the dogs are finished and relax with a free, fresh bowl of water and food. "I suppose that the water and food are comparable to the food and orange juice humans receive after giving blood," Oakley said yesterday. They are then sent home and told to avoid strenuous exercise. "This program works because of the basic concept behind it," Oakley said. "It is people and their pets helping other people and their pets." To be eligible for the program, a dog must be healthy and between the ages of one and 10 years old, weigh a minimum of 50 pounds, current on all vaccinations, and presently not on any medication other than a heartworm preventative. Frequent donors must also wait six weeks between donations. The hospital performs a complete blood count and heartworm check on all dogs before they can give blood. Becoming a permanent member of the blood bank is the main advantage to any owner considering bringing their dog to give blood. The animals receive a donor card with their number on it, and if they are ever in need of blood, they can receive it at the hospital free of charge. Occasionally, the hospital holds blood drives to increase the donor population but workers say a mobile unit would make many more donations possible. "We would have a lot more donors if we could go out into the community," said Oakley, saying she hopes to have a blood mobile in the near future. Another goal of the Veterinary Transfusion Medicine Program is to eventually expand the number of donors to be able to supply private practices. The program is also working to develop an effective curriculum in transfusion medicine for veterinary students, to provide a state-of-the-art blood center for animals, and to improve research in clinical and basic aspects of transfusion medicine. Besides dogs, cats and farm animals have blood banks at the University, but all the donors are in-patient and kept for the purpose of donating blood. For more information for owners considering volunteering their dogs, write to Donna Oakley, AHT, Head Nurse, Blood Bank Coordinator, Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 3850 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010.Comments powered by Disqus
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