Some blood donors like their ears tickled

Lifesaving: The Eastern Veterinary Blood Bank in Annapolis supplies blood for dogs that may need it for various reasons.

July 02, 1999|By Rachel Sams | Rachel Sams,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Morgan reclines on his side on a table, watching the tube in Dr. Ann Schneider's hand. He flinches a little when Schneider slips a needle into a vein in his neck, then growls half-heartedly.

Technician Cindy Brucksch lies next to Morgan on the table, allowing him to feel the protective warmth of her body, and rubs his ear. Schneider pats his tummy with her free hand. Both croon words of approval, telling him he's a good, brave patient. And when it's over, he gets all the cookies he can eat.

If you think Morgan's getting more attention than the average blood donor, you're right. But Morgan, a 2-year-old clumber spaniel, isn't your average blood donor -- unless, that is, you're talking about the Eastern Veterinary Blood Bank in Annapolis.

EVBB, which has been in existence since 1993 and currently has nine employees, is one of only four large-scale veterinary blood banks in the country.

Schneider, EVBB's director, recognized the need for an animal blood bank when she was doing internal veterinary medicine referral work in Catonsville.

"I needed blood a lot, and I had to draw it myself or order it from a blood bank in California," she said. "It was pretty clear to every vet in the country that we needed more blood banks."

EVBB also sells whole blood, blood components and the necessary equipment for drawing blood to veterinarians across the country and in several foreign countries.

EVBB's price for a unit of blood ranges from about $27 to $180, depending on whether it is whole blood or components, according to Chief Operating Officer Patrick Lee Jr. The equipment the blood bank sells ranges in price from $4 to $14.

The blood bank's staff frequently travels to sites such as kennels to draw blood from groups of dogs. Lee estimates that about 80 percent of the bank's blood supply is drawn off-site. EVBB staff members have traveled as far as 120 miles to draw blood; therefore, travel costs are fairly significant for the blood bank.

"We've been in business for six years, and we are just now starting to get to a break-even point," said Lee.

The veterinary community always needs blood for animals that are anemic or have lost blood through surgery or trauma, Schneider says.

At EVBB, donations are separated into red blood cells and plasma, so that a dog's donation can save two lives instead of one.

Breeders Christine Saint and Kathy Worley of Hereford have been bringing their dogs to EVBB for several years. Saint, who works at Mount Carmel Animal Hospital, says she sees EVBB's work as an important supplement to traditional veterinary practices.

"Sometimes in the middle of the night, you don't have a donor dog. To be able to have blood that you can get to is just a real good thing," said Saint.

The blood bank maintains about 50 distribution centers throughout the United States, many of which are 24-hour emergency clinics.

EVBB gets its blood from about 750 donor dogs in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia and Washington. Only about 20 percent of the blood bank's donors are people's pets; the rest are foxhounds owned by Hunt Clubs in the area. All donations are done on a volunteer basis.

The blood bank used to accept cats and ferrets as donors as well. However, cats are susceptible to several viruses that are difficult to detect, and, as Schneider explains, there was "no demand for ferret blood."

Staff at the blood bank realize that the work they are doing would have been viewed with disbelief just a decade or two ago.

"People wouldn't have paid for it 20 years ago, and vets wouldn't have known about it," said Schneider.

"Now, people are aware that their own health care is more technologically advanced, and they wouldn't understand why their pets couldn't receive that kind of medical treatment."

Patrick Lee agrees. "Up until recently, pets were sort of a second-tier member of the family. Now pets have become a member of the family, and people will do almost anything for them."

To contact the EVBB, call 1-800-949-EVBB or visit http: //www.evbb.com.

Pub Date: 7/02/99

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