The Veterinary Tissue Bank in Wrexham is Europe’s first tissue bank and one of only two in the world to provide a tissue banking service to veterinary professionals for use in animals. It is dedicated to improving the quality of lives of pets by providing tissue grafts for veterinary surgeons to use during surgery. It is committed to excellence in quality, safety, education, research and care for pets, tissue is provided by deceased donor animals in the same way as the humans can donate organs.
There is no other veterinary tissue banking service in Europe. Our mission is to ethically source, retrieve and process tissues for veterinary tissue transplantation using the highest ethical and technical standards.
They are committed to helping dogs, cats and other species in need of tissue donation and through research and development they aim to increase knowledge in this field. They aim to raise awareness of the benefits of tissue donation to pet owners and veterinary professionals through educational resources and programmes.
One of their most famous success stories is UK is Arnie the 82kg St Bernard recover from surgery for a deformed hindleg in episode 2 of the Channel 5 series ‘Rolf’s Animal Clinic’ with artist, comedian, musician, entertainer and animal lover, Rolf Harris. Arnie has made a good recovery thanks to bone donated through the veterinary tissue bank, and is now much more mobile thanks to tissue donation and transplantation.
Amongst other supporters Merseyside Police Force has taken the generous step of signing up all of its police dogs as potential donors to help provide injured pets with the gift of life. All of the force’s dogs will carry donor cards for the first tissue bank. In the event of the sad demise of any one of the dogs, Veterinary Tissue Bank will be provided with soft tissue and bone from the donor to provide grafts to provide life-saving surgery to other injured pets.
Inspector Matthew Boyle, head of Merseyside Police Dog Section, said: “Our officers enjoy a very close bond with their dogs and place great emphasis on the quality of life that these dogs experience. “The entire section is behind this initiative, understanding that their dog will go on to give new life to a canine patient in need,” he said.
Tia is the first pet in the UK to benefit from a meniscal transplant – a procedure that replaces the wedge-shaped cartilage of the knee joint using donor tissue. She suffered a severe injury to her knee joint, following a car accident last year and her vet, orthopaedic expert, Patrick Ridge from Devon based Ridge Referrals, felt Tia was an ideal candidate for knee cartilage replacement surgery.
The Veterinary Tissue Bank, was contacted to size-match and process a suitable cartilage ring for her.
Healthy tissue was then transplanted into Tia’s knee joint, making her the first dog in the UK to receive meniscal transplant. Tia’s owner, Paul Selway from Newton Abbott, Devon, said: “It’s great to have Tia back to her old self again. I’d like to thank the owner of the donor dog for having the consideration to think of how another pet might benefit from their loss.”
It’s hard at such times to think about how this loss might help other animals, but in some cases the knowledge that a beloved pet’s departure has actually been able to help other pets find a new lease
of life can make the grief more bearable. This was the case for Linda Babb from Nailsworth in Gloucestershire who tragically, lost her cat Louis prematurely through a suspected heart attack.
Louis was an eight year-old British Red Shorthaired who appeared to be in robust health apart from a slight heart murmur.
Unable to locate Louis one morning, Linda Babb went searching for her elusive feline and was devastated to find him dead by her front gate. She rushed him to her veterinary practice, Clockhouse
Veterinary Hospital in Stroud where vets were unable to diagnose a direct cause of death.
Whilst waiting in the practice reception area, Linda noticed a poster asking for pet donors to come forward to aid a ground breaking operation which processes and banks bone and soft tissue to
provide grafts for badly injured pets. Linda commented: “Louis was a lovely boy, but he had already gone. So it was actually a relatively easy decision to allow him to help other pets in need.
“I later received a lovely thank you letter from the Veterinary Tissue Bank advising me that Louis had actually helped 32 injured cats gain a new lease of life. That was great news and affirmed my decision.”
Aimee Lardner is a veterinary nurse at Clockhouse Veterinary Practice who provides pet owners with informal bereavement counselling at times of loss. She commented: “Losing a pet is very traumatic and I try to help owners to find coping mechanisms at these emotional times. Donating their deceased pet can provide them with some solace enabling them to find some comfort from the fact
that their beloved pet will be helping others after he or she has departed.”
Clockhouse Veterinary Practice has placed posters and leaflets in the surgery. They also include a mention of the donor scheme on the base of its Consent forms which owners sign prior to pets being put to sleep.
“This acts as reminder to us to mention the donor scheme and we actually find that most owners respond positively to the idea.
How to arrange for your pet to be a Donor
When faced with the loss of your dog you may like to consider the health benefits to other dogs from tissue donation. Advances in veterinary surgery, just as in human surgery, now mean that tissue donation can help cure conditions in other dogs and cats. Tissue donation may help recipients with broken bones, bone cancer, or ligament or tendon rupture. Your gesture of donation in a time of loss may have huge benefits for many other pets. You might like to talk to your family and vet about this decision.
Typically, donors are young or middle aged adults in who have been involved in major trauma, or may have had to be euthanased due to chronic pain or behavioural problems such as aggression. Some people do find their loss slightly easier to bear in the knowledge that they have helped other pets in need.
To authorize donation of tissues to the veterinary tissue bank you must sign a consent form – your vet can guide you on this. After euthanasia or death, your pet is placed in the care of Veterinary Tissue Bank and we operate to the highest ethical standards to retrieve tissue carefully. If you wish for your pet to have a private cremation afterwards, we can arrange this and return the individually-cremated ashes to you. In addition, you can enter your pet’s details with a message in our remembrance gallery as a tribute to donors.
All costs for tissue recovery are paid for by Veterinary Tissue Bank. There is no cost to you for these services.
If you wish to speak to a representative from Veterinary Tissue Bank regarding tissue donation, please call us on 01691 778769, or e.mail us on [email protected].