Animal hospital calling on pet owners for urgent blood donation shortage

Published: Aug. 21, 2019 at 5:36 PM CDT
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A local animal hospital is calling on pet owners to help with their urgent shortage of blood donations.

An emergency veterinarian at the Eastern Iowa Veterinary Specialty Center, located at 755 Capital Drive SW in Cedar Rapids, said the local shortage comes from a national shortage of blood products. Right now, there is a six-week wait to get blood from national banks.

The hospital started its own bank a year ago because of the problem. 7-year-old Drake is a pitbull/lab mix and has been their longest donor.

"He's donated 12 times," Kayla, Drake's owner and hospital blood bank technician, said. "One day, we just had a critical patient that needed the life-saving red blood, so I grabbed him, we screened him real quick, got a donation in and from then on, we were hooked."

She and other vets at the center said there is an ongoing need for pet donors, which is why they started their bank last year.

"It's a need nationally," Erin McCormick, associate ER veterinarian, said. "We do an average of 1 to 3 transfusions a week."

The process is a bit more involved than a human blood donation, but she said it is fairly simple. After a pet is screened and approved to give blood, they are brought in for about an hour-long procedure.

"Most of them will need some level of sedation," McCormick said. "We insert the needle in the jugular vein in the neck, and let it flow with gravity and over about 10 to 15 minutes, we get the blood donation we need."

A Centrifuge machine then separates the red blood cells from the plasma. The plasma can be frozen and used for longer periods of time. McCormick says red blood cells are in the highest demand.

"In dogs, we give blood transfusions to a lot of trauma patients. We also see a lot of dog immune-mediated destruction of red blood cells," McCormick said.

Right now, they have 13 dog and cat donors. They are mainly looking for dog donors with the universal blood type. They are also keeping a waitlist for cats because they expect that need to spike as well.

Owners interested in making their pet a donor can reach out to the facility at (319) 841-5161. Dogs are required to be less than 6 years old, at least 50 pounds and friendly and well-behaved. Cats are required to be less than 6 years old, at least 9 pounds and friendly and well-behaved.