The moment that 9-year-old Macy walks into the room she knows where the treats are.
Only the best is handed out here to Macy and other dogs who visit this room: freeze-dried beef liver.
“It's enough to convince them that what we’re doing is not that scary,” explained Heather Montgomery.
She’s the one who will gently poke the dogs who come to her with a needle, to draw a pint a blood.
Montgomery runs the Access Blood Bank for pets in Seattle.
Macy’s been donating blood for several years now, so she’s used to the routine.
She jumps up on the table without being told.
Her good health’s already been verified so now a small sample of blood is taken from a rear leg, to check for clotting. As Montgomery drops some blood in a vial, she explained; “The blood should sink, and that's a quick and easy way to know that it's safe to donate. “
A quick little shave and scrub of the skin and Montgomery slips in a needle.
“We take it from the jugular vein,” she explained also making it clear that the dog, or cat is never alone throughout the entire process, at least one person comforting them, while Montgomery monitors the needle and a bag below, filling up with blood.
By using the jugular, Montgomery said the blood flows fast, filling that bag in 5 to 7 minutes; about all the patience a dog can muster.
The Access Blood Bank started in 2004, inside BluePearl Emergency Medicine for Pets, which opened in 2003.
“We now have over 200 dogs and cats who live in people’s homes who come in and donate blood for us,” said Beth Davidow, DVM, the medical director and one of the founders of the clinic.
She said back then, there were just four pet blood banks in the country.
At BluePearl, she said they do about 300 transfusions a year.
“We, through the blood bank creates about 1,000 pints of blood a year and make sure that any pet in any hospital in the area has blood,” she said.
Typical needs for a blood transfusion, include trauma, bone marrow cancer treatments, infections and more.
“We have pets who get into rat bait and the main kind of rat bait that people use causes you to bleed catastrophically and so they get into that and they come in bleeding and they actually need not only blood but also the plasma component which includes the clotting element they're missing,” said Davidow.
"Nobody is aware that that's an issue that we face every day in Seattle," said Montgomery.
Each pint of dog blood can be separated into four parts, potentially saving the lives of four different dogs.
So the staff at Access Blood Bank works to keep the supply at the ready.
They’re always looking for volunteer donors, both dogs and cats, to begin donating from age 1 to 6.
The animal must be healthy, up on all vaccines, without heart problems or any infectious disease and have a calm demeanor for the procedure.
Dogs must weigh at least 50 pounds.
Cats must weigh at least 10 pounds and be indoor-only cats that live with only other indoor cats.