The donation of blood and receiving of blood transfusions is a regular lifesaver in human medicine. Animals too often need a vital transfusion following an accident, during an operation or to treat blood disorders including anaemia and low red cell count, diagnosed in the veterinary laboratory.
Just one donation can serve as many as four dogs
Since 2007 Pet Blood Bank UK has been encouraging owners to enter their canine companions onto the charity’s list of 8,000 registered donors. The Loughborough based service runs as many as 5 donation sessions every week at veterinary surgeries and canine centres around the UK. One donation can serve as many as four dogs and donors can give blood up to 6 times a year providing over 5,000 units (2625 litres) of blood and blood products each year.
The process of donating is simple with little discomfort. A small area of fur is clipped from a foreleg and a local anaesthetic cream applied. Fluid volume is quickly replaced, with whole blood content restored in around 2 months.
Pet Blood Bank UK doesn’t add any profit margin to the blood it supplies
Just like blood matching in people, donor and recipient dogs fare best when their blood types match. 70% of dogs are type DEA (Dog Erythrocyte Antigen) 1.1-positive, and 30% DEA1.1-negative. DEA 1.1-positive dogs can receive blood from any dog. A DEA1.1-negative dog can receive DEA1.1-positive blood once, but then becomes ‘sensitised’ and could suffer a fatal reaction if DEA1.1-positive blood is received a second time.
Over and above the cost of obtaining, processing and storing donated blood, Pet Blood Bank UK doesn’t add any profit margin to the blood it supplies. The charity even recommends that veterinary practices shouldn’t include the cost of blood in their treatment charges. Any surplus earned by the charity is reinvested in animal welfare and owner education.
Cats, rabbits and guinea pigs may soon be joining the dogs
Though any dog can be considered for their donor register, the health and welfare of donor and recipient dogs is the charity’s biggest concern. Dogs applying to join the register must be fit and well and not under any medical treatment. Donor dogs must be over 25kg (55pounds), between 1 and 8 years old and up to date with their vaccinations. Imported dogs and dogs that have travelled abroad, that would require extensive diagnostic testing, aren’t added to the register neither are dogs that have been previously transfused.
Pet Blood Bank UK hopes to extend their veterinary laboratory backed service to include other small and pet animals. Cats, rabbits and guinea pigs may soon be joining the dogs as they line up for their post-donation cup and tea and a dog biscuit.