Doggie donors do good

2013-06-29 00:00

AS blood donor month comes to a close we look at blood donor heroes of a different kind; those dogs that give blood for their fellow canines.

Brynn, a female Rottweiler, and Bandit, a mixed breed, are giving blood for their fellow animals in distress.

Collecting animal blood is more complicated because dogs and cats have more blood types than humans.

The two dogs are called in regularly to supply fresh blood to the sick animals at the Hilton Veterinary Clinic. They belong to vet Dr Derek Clover and are used to the procedure and happily jump into the waiting cage and climb onto the table.

Dr Martin de Scally, who runs the Hilton Veterinary Hospital, said blood donations are needed when a sick animal is brought in with poisoning or when an animal has been severely injured in an accident and has suffered severe blood loss.

Other conditions requiring blood transfusions in animals are when an animal has been diagnosed with a severe case of bilary, a disease that affects the liver, or if they have been bitten by a snake. Usually vets keep a stock of blood in the surgery for emergencies and they use their own pets as blood donors where possible. Blood can be frozen or stored in a fridge for up to a month before it starts to degenerate.

De Scally said: “We use large dogs that are over 28 kilograms and who have been regularly vaccinated, and are in healthy condition. Ideally the donor and the recipient should be matched. Luckily most dogs belong to two main blood groups – DA1.4 and DA1.6.

“Ideally we would try and type the blood donors, but this can take time and it is costly, so we have identified a method where we can find out quickly if the blood from donor and recipient are likely to reject. If they don’t then we can use blood that is similar, but not an exact match. This can buy the animal time while the medication kicks in.”

The problem lies more with cats who do not respond well to “neutral” blood types and the wrong blood type can kill them. De Scally says taking blood from an animal is fairly harmless.

“We choose those animals with a placid temperament and we make it as painless as possible. We sedate them and then take the blood from the jugular or a vein in the foot.”

De Scally says blood transfusions are used as a last resort because animals can reject the transfusion. The blood donors have to be healthy or they can infect a sick animal with a new infection.

De Scally said: “Animals are well adapted to donating blood because their spleen is designed to store blood when there is a shortage of blood and they don’t suffer any ill- effects after donating blood.”

As anxious pet owners sit waiting for news of their animals, often the real heroes are the dogs who are brought in to the clinic to donate blood. They do it without reward and they expect nothing in return.

A dog can donate blood usually every two to three months without any adverse effects. While they don’t get any badges of honour they do get a pat on the head and a bowl of good food as a reward.

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