Just like humans, sometimes animals depend on blood donors in emergencies – but donations have dropped 40 per cent during the pandemic.
It might be tricky to get blood out of a stone, but whoever coined the old adage had clearly never tried to drain half a pint of the stuff from a Great Dane or a German Shepherd. Suddenly that saying seems like an understatement.
Aside from getting them to lie still while the needle is inserted, canine blood donors also appreciate a tummy rub. They’re unlikely to leave until they have received a post-donation bowl of water and some doggy treats. And the less publicity-shy also like to record their achievement by posing for a Facebook photograph.
“My dogs were fine, it was me who nearly passed out,” says Ali Scott, who regularly takes five of her nine labradors to one of the Pet Blood Bank UK’s mobile blood donation units near Newcastle. “I first heard of the service five years ago. I knew that as someone who owns a lot of dogs there was a chance that at some point I might need their help, so I thought I should do my bit.
“One of my dogs, Red, has just notched up his 15th donation. I know some people might be a bit wary, but it’s completely pain free and my dogs really enjoy the attention.”
Following a change in the law regarding the storage of animal blood, Pet Blood Bank UK was founded in 2007. Since then, thousands of creatures have been saved.
However, the past 15 months has been tough for the service, which transports donated blood to veterinary surgeries across the country.
A few years ago, when one of our dogs needed a transfusion, I began looking into canine donation,” says Alison, from Suffolk. “Newfoundlands are big dogs, so it can be quite tricky getting them on the table and the poor nurse gets covered in fur. However, knowing that we might be able to save another dog makes it all worth it.”
Prior to the launch of the service, vets had to rely on their own list of potential donors. However, with time of the essence, organising transfusions was often tricky.
“Pet Blood Bank has helped to save our family twice,” says Luke Carvalho, who owns four dogs with his partner, Fern. “Our whippet Wendy needed a plasma transfusion after she ate something poisonous and more recently our terrier Toby needed blood after he swallowed a rubber toy and later suffered a burst intestine.”
The blood bank is hoping to expand its operation by creating a similar setup for cats – and the country’s small but growing herd of alpacas. It’s not the only place which is pioneering animal blood transfusions, however. While there is no national equine blood bank, the Royal Veterinary College keeps four horses at its Hertfordshire campus who each month donate blood and plasma.
A spokesman says: “We started keeping blood donors over 20 years ago, but as equine critical care has advanced, their role has become even more important.
“Our equine hospital, which treats everything from haemorrhages to diseases of the blood, is always open, so these donors can be called upon at any time. Horse blood has a limited shelf life, so having on-site access to donors is the only way we can carry out cutting edge procedures. They really are lifesavers.”
“Although our donor owners have been brilliantly supportive, because of social distancing restrictions we have seen a drop off in the number of sessions we have been able to hold,” says the organisation’s marketing manager, Nicole Osborne. “We’ve also seen a 40 per cent reduction in the number of dogs attending sessions and together that has had a big impact on our stock levels.”
With Monday marking World Blood Donor Day, the team, along with the UK Kennel Club Charitable Trust, is hoping to encourage more dog owners like Alison Daltrey – whose Newfoundlands Simba and Storm have recently been accepted as donors – to come forward.
(Story source: Inews)