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When Reagan Kulseth's dog Murphy started hemorrhaging on Nov. 24, she took him to Central Animal Hospital. Murphy, a 12-year-old Australian shepherd mix, had a growth on his spleen. Her veterinarian, Dr. Mike Samuels, suggested removing the spleen, but the dog's platelet count was too low to operate. At 28,000 platelets, the dog needed 100,000 to survive a surgery. With only four major animal blood banks in the country, Murphy couldn't wait two days to get fresh blood from the nearest bank in California. Dr. Samuels called local animal hospitals and could find only 1.5 units--still not enough to reach the required platelet count. Murphy died because at the 11th hour, after X-rays revealed lung cancer. Spurred by the critical lack of available blood, Kulseth and Dr. Samuels launched Murphy's Blood Bank. Kulseth can be reached at reagen@earthlink.net

What is Murphy's Blood Bank?

It will offer a complete line of blood components and transfusion products, such as blood bags and administration sets. There are more pets that need blood than (there are) dogs and cats (that) donate. The current wait for cat plasma is two months and about six weeks for dog plasma. Plasma is used to build up blood volume when the animal is not making enough or losing too much protein.

What immediate challenges do you face?

We'd like to have 20 donor dogs donating blood every 45 days. There are eight to 12 different blood types for dogs. That means we have to screen 400 dogs, because only one in 20 are universal donors. We have to type-test a whole lot of frogs to find our prince and princess blood donors. Fortunately, cats don't require universal blood donors. There's type A and type B, so we just match A with A and B with B. However, cats can only give three or four times a year.

Are any breeds considered universal donors?

Sixty percent of greyhounds are universal donors. All large-breed dogs welcomed.

What are your startup costs?

About $20,000 incurred between the both of us.

What qualifies a dog or cat for blood type testing?

Dogs should be between 1 and 8 years old, weigh at least 45 pounds but not (be) overweight, (should) be spayed or neutered, free of blood-borne parasites or ticks, free of any medication except heartworm and flea/tick preventative and be healthy and good-humored.

Strictly indoor cats will be considered (if they are) between 2 and 10 years old, weigh at least 8 pounds, (are) current on vaccines (and) not pregnant or in heat at time of donation ... preferably spayed/neutered and free of feline leukemia and AIDS.

Who will do the blood typing, and how much does it cost?

Contact Central Animal Hospital at 323-9912 and specify Murphy's Blood Bank. Blood typing takes a few minutes and is free.

Are there any perks for donor animals?

Yes, they receive lots of freebies, including a comprehensive physical, annual testing for ticks and valley fever for dogs and FIV and FIP for cats, chemistry profiles to determine general health, blood products for any of your pets within one year of your donation and microchipping plus significant discounts on Heartguard and Frontline products.

Can you give me a blood donation scenario?

Your pet will be examined and weighed. A small blood sample will be collected to check for PCV (packed cell volume). If the blood count is OK, then the blood collection process takes about 20 minutes. Fluids are replaced, and your pet gets healthy treats and belly rubs.

Is donating blood painful?

No, it's almost painless. Most pets don't seem to mind.

Would you like to add anything else?

I don't want any pet owner to go through what I did ... the frantic search for something we take for granted. Traditional animal blood banks keep animals in cages and only let them out to donate blood. Some dogs live like that for years. That's appalling! I want to establish the first volunteer animals-as-pets blood bank. I need your help. Thank you.

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