Vet clinic aims to build on success of first blood drive

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One of Cochrane’s veterinarian clinics took on a less heard of yet life-saving project earlier this month.

Arrowhead Veterinary Centre held a blood drive for dogs on Dec. 10, which saw more than 26 canines participate.

“We just rocked it,” said Libby Fulton, a veterinarian at Arrowhead clinic. “Some of them, it was their first time and they came in and it was such a give back to the community.”

While Fulton said there is a year-round need for blood products – holidays can sometimes be the most critical time as emergencies tend to be more frequent.

“Maybe it’s because we’re all out a little bit more with our pets. We’re not at work, they’re not necessarily at home we’re out doing things so I think there’s more chance of accidents to happen,” she said.

Ten full units with some partial units – the equivalent of more than 4,500 millilitres of blood – were donated the day of the drive, which Fulton said is significant to the Animal Blood Bank.

“There’s request for those blood products on a daily basis from all over the country,” Fulton said. “Sometimes they don’t have adequate blood in the blood bank very much like in a human situation.”

All the blood collected is stored at the Animal Blood Bank headquarters in Winnipeg, which is frequently at a shortage.

At times, when there isn’t enough blood to go out, Fulton said vets are put in a very difficult position.

“It is a bit of a problem, when the blood bank is out of product we can’t get any at all. In an emergency situation ,we sit there going ‘who has a bigger dog, who would be willing to donate.’ They have to be healthy donors and then we’ll bring them down and draw a blood sample urgently and we have the filter kits and the collection kits here,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s just a hail Mary because you have to have the blood now, that patient is crashing right now.”

While bringing in their own dogs for transfusions during emergencies is helpful, Fulton said it’s only a “Band-Aid fix” – eventually more blood will be needed to maintain that patient.

There’s two blood types for dogs – positive and negative. If a dog is negative, it can only receive negative. However, if a dog is positive, it can receive either.

Fulton said luckily in Cochrane there appears to be a lot of negative blood type dogs.

Janine Simpson, a veterinarian technician at Arrowhead, said every blood donation is important because each unit donated – 450 millilitres – can save up to three dogs by breaking the blood into three products.

“So just the red blood cells, but they can also get the plasma – the serum – off and that can be used on anyone (dog) that’s short in protein. And some samples they can break down and take the platelets from it so if a dog has gotten into mouse poison they can use that product there,” Simpson said.

The idea for a blood drive first came to Dave Lovell, who runs the Gone Wild Kennel, when he was in the waiting room at an animal critical care centre for one of his own pets. While there, he saw a great Dane rushed into the centre and a number of dogs brought in after it for transfusions to save the Dane’s life.

“I was thinking, ‘OK this doesn’t make sense, why isn’t there a blood drive for dogs?’” Lovell said. “I would do anything for my dog.”

After Lovell contacted Arrowhead Vet and found there was in fact a demand, the group co-ordinated with the Animal Blood Bank.

“They were ecstatic we wanted to do this,” Fulton said.

The next blood drive is set for the Spring 2018, and the clinic has already had signups. If the turn out is as good as the December drive, Fulton said it could be a two-day event.

If you are interested in having your dog be a blood donor please check the Canadian Animal Blood Bank at www.canadiananimalbloodbank.ca or call Arrowhead Veterinary Centre at 403-932-2370.

Donors must be between one to eight years old, healthy and up-to-date on vaccinations.

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Amy Tucker

Amy is a news reporter with the Cochrane Eagle covering everything from fire, crime and education to Morley events. Her previous career highlights include producing a mini documentary in India and coproducing a podcast spotlighting the tricky mixture of love and age. Amy has a degree in journalism and has tendencies to wander. When she's not writing the news, she spends her spare time swimming, dreaming about her next adventure and thinking about ways that she can make the planet a little greener.