Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pets as Blood Donors for Other Pets

Most people think about donating blood but they probably don't think of their dogs (and sometimes cats) as potential blood donors for other pets in need of a transfusion.

I was well aware of this, especially when writing "The Angell Memorial Animal Hospital Book of Wellness and Preventive Care for Dogs," where I included information about blood donations at Angell. Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston isn't the only facility where this is done. I would venture to guess that there are blood banks at major veterinary hospitals throughout the United States and probably in other countries as well.

What brought this topic to mind was a press release I received today from UC Davis (California). They have a wonderful veterinary school and major veterinary medical center on campus. Currently they have a need for Dog Blood Donors for their new UC Davis Veterinary Blood Bank.

"Because we need dogs with a specific blood type, we plan to screen
approximately 1,200 dogs each year in order to establish and maintain the necessary pool of 200 to 400 regular donors," said Dr. Sean Owens, the blood bank's medical director and head of the Transfusion Medicine
Service at UC Davis' William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

Regular donors usually only donate four or five times a year although they could easily donate monthly with no adverse effects.

Donor dogs are screened to see if they meet the criteria. UC Davis also requires that they be from one to eight years of age, weigh at least fifty-five pounds and be current on flea, tick and heartworm preventative medications, never been pregnant and, of course, never had puppies. Their owners must live within 100 miles of UC Davis.

Pet owners interested in having their dog screened for donation may
obtain more information or set up an appointment by calling the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at (530) 752-1393 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by e-mailing caninebloodbank@gmail.com.

If you live elsewhere and are interested in having your four-legged companion become a blood donor, I'd suggest you check with your nearest veterinary medical school hospital or major veterinary teaching hospital to see if they maintain a bloodbank and ask for a screening.

It's an easy way for your and your pet to help others.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I don't know why most people don't understand that behavior problems are the cause of the death of more dogs than any one health problem. Think about it. The dog misbehaves, they take it to the shelter. The dog isn't housetrained, they take it to the shelter. And the shelter will usually only hold the dog for a few days, except for the no-kill shelters and even then, no-kill shelters have situations where a dog must be put down.

Most problems are fixable if people take the time. In fact, they wouldn't have the problem at all if they'd taken the time to train properly (and I do mean positively) in the first place. We know that aggression begets aggression and that's a topic for another blog entry!

Some behavior problems are genetic. Why do dogs do what they do? How much is the owner's fault, how much is genetic and how much is a combination of nature and nurture?

After my mother died, I wanted to do something meaningful to honor her and to keep her name alive. I went to the American Kennel Club's Canine Health Foundation (www.akcchf.org) and started The Marcia Polimer Abrams Fund for Canine Behavior Studies. Everything that AKC/CHF does ultimately benefits people so please don't scream at me about only caring about animals. That's not true. This is a win/win. My mother was my best friend and I became her sole caregiver. It was from my mother that I learned about unconditional love.

Part of my royalties from the sale of my new behavior book, "Rover, Get Off Her Leg!" will go to the fund. The book is available online and anywhere books are sold.

I also use the behavior fund to give gifts for weddings, anniversaries and to honor other special occasions. There is a form at akcchf.org that allows the donor to designate where they want the money to go and all they have to do is remember Behavior Fund if they don't want to write out the entire name. Or just mail them a note and put the behavior fund in the note line at the bottom of your check. It's such an easy thing to do.


If everyone who loves dogs gave a dollar or two for behavior studies, imagine what could be accomplished for dogs and their people.....

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Few Suggestions for Oprah

Not that I expect Oprah or her producers to be aware of my blog but it's still a free country so I'm going to put a few thoughts out into cyberspace.

Considering the reception of her program on puppy mills, I'd like to see Oprah do a second show. After all, an hour is so little time, and tell even more of the story. If I were producing the show, here's what I'd want to do next...

I'd want to educate buyers about responsible, ethical breeders. I'd want to discuss the genetic health tests that they do before breeding, how carefully they select the right sire for the litter and what they pay in stud fees. I'd want to tell how the puppies are raised in clean homes, indoors, and learn the beginnings of housetraining right away, how they're socialized, how pups are kept with littermates and mother to learn how to "speak dog" and the all-important bite-inhibition.

Oprah touched on the fact that responsible breeders ask their puppy buyers questions, interviewing the potential puppy buyer. That's good but it's only part of the story. A small part.
And while they were discussing shelters, what wasn't touched on by anyone and is fodder for another show, is how many shelters "import" dogs from the South and from Puerto Rico. If there's such an overpopulation problem, there should be no need to "import" more dogs. Those "shelters" that need to import dogs in order to stay open should be shut down and the money put into the shelters that need help. Just my thoughts but I'd still like to see the issue addressed.

The show could also address the issue of Fostering, how Breed Rescue people take the dogs into their homes and rehabilitate them. It wasn't really pointed out that dogs who land in a shelter often have behavior problems. The breed rescue people, knowing their own breed so well, will come in, get the dog out and into a foster home where the dog is rehabilitated into a potentially great family member for the new owner. This also means that there are fewer purebreds in shelters because Breed Rescues moves quickly to get them out once they're notified.

Oprah's show mentioned that responsible breeder will take their dogs back even if they're older. This, too, could use some extra emphasis.

And wouldn't it be nice to see some of those rehabbed purebred rescues with their owners?!

I'm sure others have even more thoughts on the subject. Those are just mine.

Friday, April 4, 2008

OPRAH and The Puppy Mill Show

The way rumors were flying around the internet when it was first announced that Oprah Winfrey was going to do a show on puppy mills, you'd think the sky was about to fall! Responsible breeders in the dog fancy were afraid they were going to be vilified when they are not at fault. One post from some man who claimed to represent an organization of Sporting dog people went so far as to advise boycotting Oprah's sponsors. How can anyone call for a boycott or get upset before they've seen the program? People were leaping to so many conclusions that it was like watching grand jetes at the ballet!

Like every other dog lover, dog writer, behavior consultant, etc., I simply had to stop my day and watch the show. It was, at this point, mandatory viewing. What did I come away with after the fact? Lisa Ling did an admirable job going undercover at a puppy mill and showing the public (if they care to pay attention) the disgusting, inhumane conditions of the origins of most pet shop pups. There was a visit to a kill shelter where dogs must be chosen to be euthanized because they haven't been adopted and their time is literally up. It's gut-wrenching.

There were stats (in my mind, over the top) about how many purebreds are in shelters. Most are taken by breed rescue, rehabbed and rehomed so that wasn't quite on target but a small point to quibble about. Oprah's veterinarian, Dr. Sheldon Rubin, not only showed how easy it is to neuter a pet and told of the importance of spay/neuter as a health issue but Oprah pointed out that there are lost cost spay/neuter clinics so there's no excuse for not having your pet spayed and neutered instead of adding to the population.

Viewers were advised to get their dogs from a shelter or breed rescue and even the man from the rescue group said that the problem doesn't come from responsible breeders because they take their dogs back, even after several years so their dogs aren't landing in the shelter. Buying from a reputable breeder is quite different from buying from a backyard breeder or a puppy mill dog.

All in all, it was an excellent program and Oprah Winfrey did a great service today in helping to educating the public.

Those of us who specialize in writing about dogs and cats usually end up preaching to the choir, seldom being able to break through to the mainstream media. This time, the mainstream media picked up the ball and ran with it. And scored!

Brava, Oprah! I hope others follow your lead and I hope that you will revisit this topic in the future.