A dog's life, and worth saving
A Twin Cities animal clinic has started a blood bank to supply pet owners with more options for keeping their friends alive longer.Ayanna McPhail, Pioneer Press -- July 31, 2003
As the poison worked through her body, Lacey curled up in her house in obvious pain. She was ready to die. But the Jungbauers weren't ready to say goodbye to their 2-year-old Australian shepherd. They rushed her to an emergency clinic in Apple Valley where assistants drew blood from the vet's own dog and gave Lacey a transfusion. Four days later, Lacey returned home, and she now has made a full recovery.
In the future, dogs in need of an emergency transfusion will have a more readily available supply of blood. Last month, the South Metro Animal Emergency Clinic in Apple Valley started the Twin Cities Animal Blood Bank. While other clinics collect blood when needed for transfusions, organizers see a need for a stock of animal blood on hand.
Julie Crandall, manager for the South Metro Animal clinic, said the blood bank addresses a need. After being put on a waiting list 12 to 14 weeks long for a small unit of plasma, Crandall knew that the clinic could no longer depend on out-of-state blood banks. "By having a sufficient donor list, we would be able to serve each and every patient that needs a blood transfusion," Crandall said.
The new blood bank underscores the strong bonds that exist between pets and their owners, who open both their hearts and their wallets when animals get sick. For the Jungbauers, that moment came in February.
As they sat in the consultation room at the South Metro Animal clinic, the Jungbauers contemplated Lacey's future. Jake Jungbauer, 17, told his mom, "We're not putting her down, we're transfusing her, we're doing anything it takes." They did just that.
Dr. Eric Hawksford, the veterinarian who treated Lacey, happened to have his black labrador with him at the clinic. A technician shaved Hawk's fur, then put a needle in his neck and withdrew blood for about 10 minutes. Unlike many people, many dogs aren't squeamish and don't even seem to be aware of what's going on. They're really just waiting for their doggy treat, Hawksford said.
When Lacey came home, she was still ill. And when teacher Colleen Jungbauer missed school later that week to deal with her dog's illness, her fifth-graders began to say prayers. "It's been a very long journey," Colleen Jungbauer said of the ordeal, which ended up costing the family a total of about $3,500 in medical bills, including antibiotics and other treatments.
DEMAND OUTSTRIPS SUPPLY
Dogs have at least eight blood types, and some are universal donors, similar to a human's Type O. (Humans have four blood types.) Fortunately for Lacey, when a dog receives a transfusion for the first time, their bodies generally will accept any blood type. After the first transfusion, there needs to be a similar match or the dog can have a deadly reaction.
Nationally, there are four major commercial veterinary blood banks, including one in Madison, Wis. Since 1995, Eastern Veterinary Blood Bank in Annapolis, Md., has seen the demand outweigh the supply for blood, according to Patrick Lee, chief operating officer. "People are more willing to spend money on their pets and to extend medical treatment," Lee said.
Before they could pull 17-ounce bags of blood from their refrigerator, veterinary technicians took donations from dogs at local animal shelters. This method was not cost-effective: The clinic would have to spend money on screening animals that would eventually get adopted. "We're not out to make money; we're out to service a niche for the community," Crandall said. There are more than 100 clinics in the south metro area; the Twin Cities Animal Blood Bank's goal is to become a resource for those clinics.
The most common reason for a transfusion is poisoning. The Jungbauers, for instance, think Lacey ate a mouse that had ingested rat poison. Other reasons for a transfusion include anemia, surgeries, spleen tumors, and clotting disorders.
BUILDING A BANK
This past weekend, technicians at the Apple Valley clinic went about the work of building a blood bank. Copper John spent 10 minutes of her sixth birthday giving about 2 cups of blood - roughly 17 ounces - that can be used for up to three transfusions within 35 days, before the blood expires. Kristie Tipton, the dog's owner, is a technician at the clinic. Her dog, she said, has the right temperament to be a donor.
After seeing the benefits of blood donations, Colleen Jungbauer says that she would have Lacey be a donor. Her husband, Ron, jokes that the money spent on medical bills was the family of six's vacation, but Colleen Jungbauer says she wouldn't hesitate to do it again.
"Where do you draw the line?" Colleen Jungbauer asked. The answer, she said, is up to each owner, but Lacey "is our family, our life."