Layton’s canine blood bank appeals for dog donors amid shortage

LAYTON, Utah — A Layton veterinary clinic is appealing to dog owners to help fill a dog blood shortage that has left fur babies hanging between life and death.

When animals are in pain and times matter, sometimes vet techs can’t do much without this supply.

“There have been a few cases because of the shortage, where we’ve run out of blood here at the hospital. And it’s definitely been a scramble at this 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 was lightly sedated in the “donor room” at Mountain West Veterinary Specialists.

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

Straw stuck a needle into the numb pup and began drawing blood from a bag on a scale. The milliliters on the scale started to speed up.

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

Straw, who became the owner of Doss after being turned over to the clinic, has him donate blood every two months for the Waggin’ Tails Blood Bank, which Straw and Thiel co-run.

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

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

Thiel said the vet clinic started the blood bank three years ago, so they didn’t have to hunt for supplies.

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

“There are a bunch of different scenarios where a dog might need blood,” Thiel said. “Because we are an emergency [clinic], we see some of them coming to emergency departments – if they’ve had a traumatic event that might require an emergency blood transfusion. There are certain autoimmune diseases where they become anemic, and they may also need a blood transfusion.

Blood transfusions often occur from the operating room to the clinic’s intensive care unit.

“Our little Maltipoo had ACL surgery, and they still need blood for that,” customer Tia Dillman said.

Tia and Cody Dillman know how much dog blood donation 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, or accidents, emergencies, just like humans,” she said.

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

“We thought it was just a good way to give back, and he can help other puppies who are having trouble,” Tia said, while giving Chief a great pet.

But in less than a year, Chief will exit the donor program.

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

They need more pet owners to register their doggos.

Directly across from the intensive care room, a refrigerator is stocked with blood and plasma units. While a full fridge is good, vet techs said the supply would last them less than two weeks.

An empty refrigerator means that a dog in need of intensive care may not be able to return home with its family.

“Just making sure dogs that need blood have access to that blood,” Straw said. “Often this blood will make the difference between whether they live and whether they die.”

Doss was a champ on Thursday, with the giveaway taking just over 5 minutes. After drawing 510 milliliters of blood from him, Thiel and Straw put Doss on the ground and gave him food. They then donned a cape, felted glasses 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 more dogs, Straw said, at a time when those critical moments matter most.

To donate, a dog must be between one and seven years old, weigh more than 40 pounds, and be up to date with their vaccinations. The Waggin’ Tails Blood Bank webpage has information on how to join.

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