Your Pet Can Become a NorthStar VETS “SuperHero” this 4th of July!
Photo Credit: NorthStar VETS
The 4th of July, a highly-festive, patriotic holiday thanking our country’s heroes who fought for our freedom… what does it mean to you, and how do you celebrate?
As a professional pet sitter, most of my holidays are spent providing care for beloved pets in the absence of their families. In addition to essential needs and affection, some pets require medical care, for others it’s playtime and exercise, but many furry babies require care with a heightened level of patience, understanding, creativity, calmness and compassion to help cope with anxiety. On the 4th of July, often times anxiety is exacerbated by an extreme hypersensitivity to the sound, vibrations and an uncontrolled sensation of never-ending explosions of firecrackers and fireworks. And I celebrate with my furry friends feeling like their hero!
The highest incidence of lost pets each year is during the 4th of July holiday, leading to injury and illness. In addition to easy access to open doors, food, alcohol, toxic items in guests’ handbags and left around by children, in a panic, a pet will do whatever is necessary to escape, often times causing severe injury to themselves. Many are hit by cars, frantically running the streets seeking quiet and safety.
Your Pet Can Become a “SuperHero” and help unfortunate animals this 4th of July and in the future, by becoming a blood donor at NorthStar VETS Blood Bank! If you are not intrigued, rather, the thought scares you, I had the same reaction until I saw happy, relaxed pets enjoying treats and affection in this video. I also learned about River’s Story, a dog whose life depended on a blood transfusion, is now a SuperHero helping other pets!
And that prompted me to contact Dr. Kimberly Hammer of NorthStar VETS Blood Bank once again and share this information of how animals help save other animals’ lives… just as we humans participate in blood drives.
“Dr. Hammer is a board-certified veterinary internal medicine specialist and the supervising veterinarian of the blood bank at NorthStar VETS. Her responsibilities are to ensure the safety of our donors and recipients by screening new blood donors, monitoring the ongoing health of our blood donors and setting up protocols for the processing and administration of blood products at our hospital.”
In 2015, Dr. Hammer volunteered her time at South Jersey’s 2nd Annual Pet Wellness Symposium, and presented a lecture, “Heroes Come in All Forms – NorthStar VETS’ Blood Bank.” If you missed it, here is your opportunity to learn about NorthStar VETS All Volunteer Blood Bank… where your pet can become a SuperHero!
Getting started, I simply wanted to learn about its inception. Whose idea was it to create a blood bank?
“There are few large veterinary blood banks across the country. Being a large veterinary hospital, we have a need for a constant supply of blood products. Our thought was to create a program that would supply NorthStar VETS’ needs and hopefully have the opportunity to supply area veterinarians with blood products.”
Wondering how pets qualify and are deemed healthy to donate, I asked Dr. Hammer to share the screening process as well as eligibility requirements.
“The screening process includes a questionnaire that looks at a pet’s age, weight, medical conditions, and the ability for the owner to bring their pet in for regular donations. Once they complete this process, the potential donor undergoes a complete physical examination by a veterinarian and full blood work to evaluate health and screen for certain blood-borne infections. Once this process is complete, the donor joins the program.
Thinking about the expense of veterinary exams and blood work, Dr. Hammer confirmed there’s NO cost to SuperHeroes!
“Our program is all volunteer. In fact, our donors get ‘paid’ in the form of free examinations by a veterinarian, free yearly blood work to evaluate their overall health, and lots of treats!”
It may not be every parent’s choice, but I would be comforted greatly being present with my kitty, so just asking this question made me nervous! Are parents allowed to remain with their pet during the donation process?
“Yes, we allow parents, other pets and donors to be present for the donation.”
With extreme relief and curiosity, I delved right in wanting to know how long the actual donation process takes and how much blood is donated during each session.
“The actual donation takes about 5-10 minutes. The amount donated is dependent on the size of the dog but ranges from 250-450ml for dogs and 60ml for cats.”
How many staff are required during the donation?
“It takes two people to perform the donation.”
The videos showed happy doggies getting treats and love, and SuperHero Bob, a Greyhound, fell asleep while making his donation, but I still had to ask if it’s painful to the furry babies.
“The only potentially painful part of donation is the needle stick and most of our donors don’t react.”
Is there a risk to the donor of becoming anemic?
“We check red blood cell counts prior to each donation to make sure the donation is safe.”
I asked Dr. Hammer if it was only acute injuries and trauma that require blood transfusions, or chronic conditions as well, increasing the need for blood products.
“The types of conditions that we use blood products for are conditions resulting in blood loss (trauma such as hit by a car, bleeding tumors, surgical blood loss), certain types of poisonings (specifically rat poison), diseases of the bone marrow where red blood cells aren’t being made (such as myeloma – cancer of the bone marrow) and immune-mediated diseases where red blood cells are destroyed.
I took a moment to erase the thought of ill and injured babies… and remembered what a wonderful program this is; it saves animals’ lives! Just as human lives are saved, thanks to blood donors, so are our beloved, precious pets’! How much blood is typically used during one transfusion?
“The volume needed for a transfusion is dependent on the weight of the patient and how low their red blood cell counts are. It can vary anywhere from a ¼ unit for our smallest patients to 3 units at a time for a very large patient.”
Given NorthStar VETS is an emergency trauma and specialty center, having a volume of pets being treated with cancer, various ailments, and trauma, how often is the blood utilized?
“We use blood products at least 3-4x weekly and sometimes multiple times per day.”
Is it a life-or-death situation when a transfusion is required?
Is there a minimum amount of blood products needed on reserve and ready for use?
“We keep 6 units of dog blood and 2 units of cat blood on hand.”
You responded previously about 250-450mL of blood is received from each dog during a donation. I’m trying to figure out how many SuperHeroes would be required to obtain 6 units of dog blood.
“A unit of blood is equal to 450ml, which is almost a pint. This is how much a human would give during donation. We keep 6 units of dog blood on hand, so it would take six dog donors to replenish our supplies.”
How long do the blood products last?
“Packed red blood cells (a concentrated red blood cell product where the plasma has been removed) and whole blood are kept in the refrigerator and last anywhere from 30-45 days. Plasma can be kept for up to five years in the freezer.”
Are there different blood types with pets as with people?
“Yes, dogs and cats have their own blood types just like people do, and we have to make sure the blood type of the transfusion is compatible with the blood type of the dog or cat.”
Can human blood be used for animals?
“Since dogs and cats have their own unique blood types, you cannot use human blood.”
“We are always in need of donors. We recommend pet owners visit the blood bank page on our web site to learn more about blood donation. For pet owners who want to take the first step toward having their pet become a NorthStar VETS’ blood bank “SuperHero”, please take the pre-screening survey today.”
I am envisioning beautiful, but silent, fireworks shooting off, for animals have reason to celebrate this 4th of July, with thanks to NorthStar VETS and Dr. Kimberly Hammer! After reviewing this most enlightening information I visited their web site to learn more. There I found photos of SuperHeroes, read about success stories, and discovered there are additional benefits SuperHeroes receive. Just a couple are:
- Free blood transfusion should your pet ever need one, receiving one unit of blood for every unit donated
- Discounted services and VIP (Very Important Pet) treatment at NorthStar VETS – including direct access to a NorthStar VETS team member and no waiting when you have an appointment
Because of the 4th of July Holiday having the highest incidence of lost pets and potential for injury, as part of your celebration, please take a moment to visit the blood bank page and Make Your Pet a “SuperHero“ this 4th of July!
Contact information for NorthStar VETS:
Hoping everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday…
Helping to keep beloved furry babies healthy and safe… and pet parents informed!
Lori, I’ve Got the ‘Scoop’!, LLC
2015 Pet Sitting Business of the Year Recipient, awarded by the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters