Layton canine blood bank calls for doggy donors amid shortage

Mar 17, 2022, 9:08 PM | Updated: Jun 14, 2022, 11:41 pm

LAYTON, Utah — A Layton veterinary clinic is calling for canine owners to help fill a doggy blood shortage that has left some fur babies hanging between life and death.

When pets are in pain and moments matter, sometimes there’s only so much vet techs can do on their own without that supply.

“There have been a couple instances because of the shortage, where we have run out of blood here in the hospital. And it’s definitely a scramble at that point,” said vet tech Katie Straw, at Mountain West Veterinary Specialists. “We want this dog to live, the owners want this dog to live.”

On Thursday, a pit bull mix named Doss underwent a light sedation in the “donor room” at Mountain West Veterinary Specialists.

Straw and fellow vet tech Kassie Thiel lifted the big boy onto a table and softly soothed him with all the “good boy” encouragement, as Doss slowly relaxed.

Straw poked a needle into the numb pup, and began to draw blood into a bag that sat on a scale. The milliliters on the scale began to tick up.

“It’s a very safe and easy process for them,” Straw said.

Straw, who came to own Doss after he was surrendered to the clinic, has him donate blood every two months for the Waggin’ Tails Blood Bank, which Straw and Thiel co-direct.

“We’re the only blood bank here in this part of Utah,” Straw said. “So, we’re trying to supply the whole area here just from here in our hospital and then also for what we need it for.”

It’s a unique service with a specific and crucial use, they each indicated.

Thiel explained that the vet clinic started the blood bank three years ago, so that they didn’t have to search for supply.

Thiel and Straw described how the hospital uses blood and plasma donations often — from emergencies, to surgeries, to managing medical disorders.

“There’s a bunch of different scenarios where a dog may need blood,” Thiel said. “Because we are an emergency [clinic], we do see some that come in on emergency services — whether they had some traumatic event happen to them that they may need an emergency blood transfusion. There are some autoimmune disorders where they become anemic, and they also may need a blood transfusion.”

Blood transfusions often happen from the operating room to the clinic’s ICU.

“Our little Maltipoo has had an ACL surgery, and they always need blood for that,” said client Tia Dillman.

Tia and Cody Dillman know how much doggy blood donations can help.

“When I saw the blood bank I was like, ‘Well, yeah. I guess dogs have to have blood during surgery just like humans do, or accidents, emergencies just like humans do,’” she said.

That’s why one of their other dogs, a stocky English Chocolate Lab named Chief, donates blood once every few months.

“We figured this was just a good way to give back, and he can help other puppies that have issues,” Tia expressed, while giving Chief a good pet.

But in less than a year, Chief will age out of the donor program.

There’s not enough regular donors like Chief or Doss to keep up with demand, Thiel and Straw explained.

They need more pet owners to sign their doggos up.

Just across from the ICU room, a fridge is filled with units of blood and plasma. While a full fridge is good, vet techs said that supply will last them less than two weeks.

An empty fridge means a dog in need of critical care may not get to go home to his or her family.

“Just making sure that those dogs that need blood have access to that blood,” Straw said. “A lot of times that blood is going to be the difference between whether they live and whether they die.”

Doss was a champ on Thursday, with the donation taking just over 5 minutes. After they pulled 510 milliliters of blood from him, Thiel and Straw set Doss on the floor, and gave him some food. They then put on a cape, felt goggles, and took pictures of the good boy next to a sign that read, “My blood is as rich as a pot of gold. March 17, 2022.”

Doss may not know he’s a hero, but his blood could now save two other dogs, Straw indicated, during a time when those critical moments matter the most.

To donate, a dog needs to be between one and seven years old, over 40 pounds, and up-to-date on vaccinations. The Waggin’ Tails Blood Bank webpage has information on how to sign up.

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Layton canine blood bank calls for doggy donors amid shortage