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This Superstar Saves Lives

What's New ImageFebruary 5, 2010

Though he has nothing to do with Hollywood, "Superstar" is an aptly named Rottweiler/Labrador/Boxer mix, according to the folks at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

On February 5, owner Regina Patton, a UC Davis employee, brought Superstar in for his 20th blood donation in the School of Veterinary Medicine's Canine Community Blood Donor Program, making the dog the first to have reached the milestone. Superstar received lots of attention and plenty of treats during his donation, which took about five minutes. His owner received a plaque in recognition of the pair's contribution to animal health.

Why do Superstar and Patton participate in the program?

"He loves coming here," answers Patton. "It helps other dogs, it helps the teaching hospital, and I get to spend more time with him." Patton, a resident of Davis, brings the dog to the hospital about once a month. Besides lots of dog chewies, Superstar and the other donor dogs receive free flea and heartworm treatments.      

The Community Donor Program began in February 2008, and Superstar is one of the first dogs to donate. The hospital's blood bank collects, processes and stores canine blood for transfusions to treat a variety of conditions. Applications range from surgical complications to kidney failure. In 2009, the hospital transfused 205 animals.

Superstar's blood donations over the past 19 months have saved an estimated 35 lives. His 20th donation was immediately designated for a cancer patient in need of a whole blood transfusion the same day.

At the blood bank

Blood donation for dogs is minimally invasive. During the animal's first visit, which lasts about a half hour, candidate dogs receive health examinations and have their blood typed. The checkup is free and includes veterinary services valued at $300.

Eligible animals may return for a half-hour donation visit. Donor dogs receive a "goodie bag" of treats and access to free blood products for life, should they need them. (After four donations, they also receive a stainless steel blood donor tag designed and donated by "Sticky Jewelry.")

In addition to the obvious benefits to sick and injured pets, the program also provides an opportunity for dog owners to become involved in the veterinary community and share a special bond with their pets.

Donors always welcome

The program always welcomes new donors, says Julie Burges, supervisor of the Transfusion Medicine Service. The service offers appointments during the week and one Saturday each month. Blood donor dogs must be 1 to 8 years old; weigh at least 55 pounds; be current on their flea, tick and heartworm preventive medications; and have never had puppies or been pregnant. To set up a screening appointment, pet owners may call (530) 752-1393, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or send an e-mail message to caninebloodbank@gmail.com.