Veterinarians warn of low blood supply for animals as well amid nationwide shortage

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WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- As a nationwide blood shortage reaches critical levels, there is also an urgent need to refuel blood banks for cats and dogs. 

Right now, the supply of dog and cat blood is dangerously low at Milwaukee area clinics, and also at national pet blood banks. If you have a pet in good health, vets hope you'll consider becoming a donor in the new year.

Tracy Lederich is sweet Jefferson's mom.

"I am a crazy cat lady," said Lederich. 

She's also a vet tech.

"I mean you see so many bad, bad cases unfortunately, that it hits you and breaks your heart," said Lederich.

So many heartbreaks, but Lederich saw recovery, too.

"It's great when you see them after their blood transfusion and you can tell they feel better," said Lederich.

That's when she decided she could do something. She got Jefferson evaluated to become a blood donor.

"It's wonderful to donate and it doesn't hurt them, they do great with it, they don't mind. I tell him he's saving some lives," said Lederich.

It's the same story for Linda Bruseth, mom to Dawn Dusk, the cat, and Nintendo, the dog.

"So I just thought why not see if my pets would tolerate it? It's a really nice feeling, just because obviously I'm a pet lover," said Bruseth.

VCA Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals has a blood donor program. 

Dawn Dusk, Nintendo and Jefferson are regulars.

"I think sometimes, until you found yourself in a situation where your pet may need a transfusion, I don't think a lot of people are aware that it's even a need in the community," said Andrea Young, hospital manager at VCA Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals.

Young says a big case can wipe out the blood supply. That happened two weeks ago for a dog requiring multiple transfusions.

"And we didn't have enough on hand that we needed. We actually had to send one of our employees, the closest place we could get it was out in Madison," said Young.

Vets often look for help from commercial blood banks or nearby vet clinics. There are also national pet blood banks, but only a handful. So getting blood from them is challenging.

"Especially since the pandemic has hit, it's the national blood bank supply has gone down even more," said Young. "Some of them have even closed."

Dog and cat donors are first screened to see if they're healthy. If so, they're sedated and then blood is drawn from the jugular vein.

"He does great for it and then he gets canned food after, so he enjoys it," Lederich said.

VCA Milwaukee has handouts that explain the program.

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