Page 2 - Description and Evaluation of a Canine Volunteer Blood Donor Program
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technique, such as component therapy, blood typing, and infectious disease test-
ing (Wardrop et. al., 2005) have helped to increase the safety of therapy for vet-
erinary patients receiving transfusions (Feldman & Kristensen, 1995; Lucas,
Lentz, & Hale, 2004). The demand for blood components for transfusion has led
to the creation of a number of veterinary blood banks (Dyck, 1997) that special-
ize in blood products for canine and feline patients.

Different models for soliciting and maintaining a donor pool have been used,
including closed colonies that keep dogs and cats on the premises of the hospital or
blood bank (Dodds, 1993; Hohenhaus, 1994), and community programs that
model themselves after human blood donor programs (Bucheler & Cotter, 1992).
Closed colonies offer the advantages of easy access to donors, isolation from other
animals who may be carrying infectious diseases, and the ability to maintain a
steady, predictable source of blood products. However, there is legitimate concern
for the welfare of donors in such programs. Currently being redrafted are ethical
guidelines that call for well-defined terms under which such donors are employed,
including limits on period of service as a donor and frequency of blood draws (A.
Schneider, personal communication, June 1, 2004). Universal adoption of similar
guidelines stalled in the past when some animal blood banks expressed fears that
operating under such constraints would prohibitively increase their operating ex-
penses (W. J. Dodds, personal communication, February 15, 2004).

Few data exist on the practices of individual hospitals that maintain in-house
donor programs. Anecdotes from our own community have been sobering, includ-
ing the following:

1. A veterinarian’s report of a transfusion-related death because an un-
screened donor was chronically infected with E. platys (R. Ridge, personal
communication, December 4, 2004).

2. An in-house donor who was forced to donate three units of blood over a
10-day period (R. Sitarz, personal communication, January 7, 2006).

3. At least one animal who was obtained from a shelter and exsanguinated to
provide several units of blood (K. Gioia, personal communication, March
8, 2004).

Although it is our hope that such incidents are rare and outside the norm, they
demonstrate the need not only for a safe and reliable blood supply, but also for
programs with high ethical standards for the care and treatment of their donors.

Community-based blood donor programs provide an attractive alternative to
closed colonies or hospital-based donor programs. Concerns raised about commu-
nity donor programs have centered on issues of feasibility. Worries about infec-
tious disease transmission, blood type availability (particularly of rare or universal
donor types), and donor retention have all been raised as potential pitfalls in the
successful implementation of such programs.
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