posted January 15th, 2010 by
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By Kim Sikes

Service dogs are a great benefit to their human partner, but Therapetics Service Dogs are not only helping humans, but other canines through blood donations. Donny, a black standard poodle who is in training to be a service dog for Therapetics, walked to the blood donation area, sat patiently and waited for the blood draw to begin. Mary Green, CPDTKA, owner of K9 Manners and More and Trainer for Therapetics Service Dogs of Oklahoma, comforted Donny by gently rubbing his ear and talking to him during the five minute procedure.
Blood donor dogs are trained to sit still as blood is drawn from their jugular using the same type of equipment as human blood banks use.
“Donny is such a good boy when he donates,” said Green. “Therapetics dogs are so tolerant and accept the blood donor process easily.” A few minutes later, the donation was complete and Donny enthusiastically enjoyed his special cookies from the “Canine Vampire,” Tracy Hendrickson, MT (ASCP) SH Medical Technologist with a Hematology Specialty, who runs the Companion Pets Veterinarian Blood Bank (CPVBB).

Donny’s donation was ear-marked for a special delivery to a veterinarian clinic in Bartlesville to help a dog that had possibly gotten into his owner’s medication or mouse poison and urgently needed a fresh whole blood transfusion. The CPVBB has been collecting, testing and distributing canine blood since 1992 and serves veterinarian clinics throughout Oklahoma and surrounding states.

Green has had several Boxers that have donated over the years, including her current Boxer, Parker. When Hendrickson spoke of the need for more donors, Green and fellow trainers volunteered their Border Collies. Dogs can donate as often as once a month with the larger dogs usually donating a pint, 450 ccs, each time and smaller dogs donating about 300 ccs. When demand continued to rise, Green suggested contacting Therapetics about using several of the service dogs in training.

“It is a triple win situation,” Hendrickson said. “The dog receiving the blood donation wins, the group wins due to the monetary donation (Hendrickson donates all profits from the particular donation back to Therapetics) and the blood bank wins with a larger donor pool. We are very grateful that we are able to keep up with the supply and demand thanks to Therapetics.” In recent months, the demand for canine blood donors has been above the level Tulsa-area regular donor dogs have been able to meet. During peak demand, a few select other breeds of dogs have volunteered. Several Labrador and Golden Retrievers and a Standard Poodle from Therapetics Service Dogs of Oklahoma have stepped up to help meet the need for the life-saving blood.

“It is very important that the dogs are readily available in a central location, and that they are well trained and healthy and drug free. It is also extremely important that they are routinely treated for parasites and receive regular veterinary exams and treatment,” Hendrickson said.
“K9 Manners stepped up to the plate first with their personal Border Collies and made it possible for the Therapetics dogs to be available.” Hendrickson said all of the blood donor dogs used by the CPVBB are muchloved pets and companions, primarily made up of Boxers.
“Boxers, as a breed, are typed as universal donors,” she said. “We bank the blood and have it available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Vets do not have to keep donor dogs at their clinics caged up solely to be donor dogs, and the number of dogs we can draw from is large.” Green said the volunteer trainers for Therapetics work many hours with the dogs to get them used to being handled.

All of the Therapetics Service Dogs in Training are housed in volunteer trainer homes and come to the K9 Manners training center in Broken Arrow and to the Therapetics office in Tulsa as part of their two years of training before partnering. Therapetics blood donor dogs have included Titus, a golden retriever, and Uli, a yellow Labrador retriever, both recently having been partnered. Uli was partnered in October 2009 with Amanda Meyer, a freshman in college who has
been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
“I was diagnosed with MS at the age of 16 and received many blood products in an attempt to effectively treat my disease.
Without those treatments, I would be even more disabled than I already am.,” Meyer said. She added that she is very proud that Uli was able to donate blood and help other dogs in need.
“Uli completes me as a person,” she said. “With Uli by my side, I can do anything.
She makes up for the abilities I lack and without her, I would need 24-hour care and assistance. I love my dog, and my dog loves me.” Therapetics specializes in placing service dogs specifically trained to help individuals with physical disabilities. It costs about $14,000 and two years of training before a dog is ready to be partnered. Therapetics does not charge clients for dogs due to the generosity of the many donors.

“Therapetics Service Dogs of Oklahoma is honored to have Titus, Donny and Uli not only improve the lives of people with physical disabilities but also help dogs in need by donating blood,” said Jennifer Richard, President of the Board of Therapetics Service Dogs of Oklahoma. “These special dogs seem to truly understand the meaning to ‘pay it forward.'” Hendrickson believes that improvements in veterinarian medicine, dog blood typing and the many successful dog blood transfusions have increased demand. Whole blood and packed cells can be stored for up to 35 days and plasma can last for five years. Blood and blood products are stored in the canine blood bank in Broken Arrow until a veterinary clinic needs them and they are quickly delivered.

“Fall and winter we often see dogs that have gotten into rat poison and need blood transfusions,” said Hendrickson. “Spring and summer there is more demand because of flea and tick anemia and Parvo.”

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