Pets in southern Arizona in urgent need of blood donors

Tucson Beagle works with vet center to increase awareness
KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Dec. 10, 2021 at 6:31 PM MST
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Daisy receives life-saving blood transfusion
Daisy receives life-saving blood transfusion(Elaina Romo | Elaina Romo)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Across the country, there’s an urgent need for human blood donors.

But did you know there’s also a dire lack of pet blood donations?

Most of us aren’t even aware of dog and cat donor programs, but they’re all over the country, including right here in southern Arizona.

Elaina Romo hadn’t heard of pet transfusions, either – until her dog Daisy needed one.

“I got her when she was nine months old from a junkyard in Phoenix, where she was pretty badly abused,” Romo said.

Romo soon found her little adopted beagle was a hidden treasure. Daisy has spread riches as a therapy dog, listening to some 800 children read to her, visiting pediatric wards, hospice patients and logging 450 volunteer hours with the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

“She’s not only loved by her family, she’s loved by the community,” Romo said.

In October, it was Daisy who needed comfort.

She had surgery for a painful disc herniation. It was delicate - and dangerous.

“We went into a situation of life-threatening hemorrhage on the order of Daisy losing half her blood volume in a matter of minutes,” said her surgeon, veterinary neurologist Dr. Rainier Ko.

Ko knew Daisy wouldn’t survive without a blood transfusion from another dog.

“We always say blood is the gift of life,” Ko said. “That’s true not only on the people side but on the animal side, too.”

The donation for Daisy was brought in from Vail and saved her life.

“If someone wouldn’t have donated blood, we wouldn’t have her here today,” Romo said. “She’s excited about life again - something she hadn’t been - thanks to another dog.”

Spry as ever now, Daisy’s an ambassador for pet blood donation, helping spread the word to more owners.

“Without donors for the program, the donor situation is very hard,” said Kirsty McKenzie, who runs the blood donor program at Veterinary Specialty Center of Tucson.

She said the need is dire, so they’re encouraging pet parents to get their dogs or cats screened.

“The dogs need to be over 50 pounds, between one and seven years of age, and in really good body condition,” explained McKenzie. “For cats, over 10pounds and under eight years of age.”

There are risks for dogs or cats that aren’t in optimal health, so the program includes intensive screening and exams to make sure they can handle the donation.

That means a lot of cost-free care for donors.

“It ranges from $800 to $1,000 for each pet, so we want someone who is able to follow the protocol for two years,” McKenzie said.

It’s a way for animal lovers - and the animals they love - to give life. And you never know when your best friend could be the next Daisy.

If you would like to learn more about the program, call the VSCOT blood donor program at 520-795-9955 or email kmckenzie@vscot.com.

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