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Doggy Blood Donors

Doggy Blood Donors

You can help save a dog’s (or even a cat’s life) life by registering your pet as a potential blood donor. Every day pets just like yours need blood transfusions. For many procedures a transfusion is a clinical necessity, without animal blood donors, veterinary surgeons could not undertake important and often life-saving operations. With advances in veterinary medicine, it is possible for vets to offer higher standards of care for their patients. In human medicine, supplies of blood and blood products are available through the efforts of the National Blood Transfusion Service. Vets however must rely on their own resources. Some veterinary practices keep their own stocks, whilst others rely on animal blood registers such as The Animal Blood Register (www.animalbloodregister.com). By becoming an animal blood donor, your pet can help vets help other pets through provision of life-saving blood transfusions.

If you are interested in this scheme please contact www.petbloodbankuk.org for details of sessions. For the area served by Safe and Hound, the nearest donating sessions are held at Ellwood and Briggs Veterinary hospital in Boston.

Can my dog donate?

Usually the criteria are that the dog should be:

  • aged between one and eight years old
  • weigh more than 25kg
  • have a good temperament
  • never have travelled abroad
  • be up to date on all vaccinations
  • be fit and healthy
  • not be on any medication

What happens at a donor session?

At set donor sessions for the Pet Blood Bank, appointments are split into two parts:

  1. Health and suitability check with a fully qualified vet
  2. Donation

The vet will go through the following process with your dog prior to any donation going ahead:

  • undertake a physical examination of your dog and take its health history
  • carefully clip and clean a small area of your dog’s neck
  • microchip your dog if it not already microchipped

If all is well, your dog will go through to the donation room where a fully qualified phlebotomist will draw about 450ml of your dog’s blood.

Once the donation is made your dog will be brought to the refreshments area for a well earned drink and snack.

You are then ready to go home, some dogs may want to take it easy for a little while, but many will get on with their normal routine.

In total, you should allow around 40 minutes for your appointment, although the actual donation process only takes between 5 and 10 minutes.

If your dog is a regular donor, you may be called in for an emergency donation. Many vets will use their own dogs for such events but sometimes healthy client’s dogs are used.

After care advice for donors?

The pet blood bank gives the following advice for owners of dogs that have donated blood.

After donation be sure to take a few precautions to make sure your pet is not affected from donating his or her lifesaving gift.

Allow access to fresh, clean drinking water. A dog should drink approximately four cups of additional water after donating.

Normal feeding regimes should be kept to before and after donation. We would advise against a change in food type or a larger meal than normal – especially if the donation is later in the day.

Please keep the bandage on and dry for at least 30 minutes and not more than 1 hour after donation. This will prevent bruising and swelling at the donation site.

Do not put undue pressure on your dog’s donation site. Refrain from using choke or pinch collars for 12 hours after donation. Flat collars are acceptable and do not cause any problem after donation.

We would suggest your dog rests for the evening after donation and any strenuous exercise is avoided. However the day after donation, your dog may continue with his or her normal activities including agility training, walking, swimming, retrieving or obedience work. If your dog seems to be tired or uninterested allow him or her to rest and please contact us.

A small amount of bruising at the site of donation is not abnormal. However, if the bruising is extensive, the area is swollen or painful, please contact us.

Please contact us if your pet shows any signs of being unwell within a 2 week period after donating as this may require us to isolate your dog’s blood depending on the symptoms he or she is showing.

Are there any risks to my dog?

According t othe pet blood bank risks are minimal. The most common risk associated with blood donation is bruising at the site of venipuncture or the formation of a Haematoma (large blood blister) at the site. These problems are self limiting and pose no serious harm to your pet. It is also possible that your pet may experience bleeding at the venipuncture site. The likelihood of this may be reduced by not using a lead on your pet’s collar for the rest of the day following donation. If such bleeding occurs it will generally stop in a very short time with the application of direct pressure and is not life threatening unless your animal has an underlying clotting disorder. It is possible, but rare for your pet to develop an inflamed area of skin around the venipuncture site. This is usually a reaction to the cleansing solution or clippers and occurs most commonly in animals with sensitive skin. We term this a “hot spot” and it is readily treatable with no lasting harm to your pet. However, let us know and we can modify our methods at subsequent donations to try and minimise the risks of it developing again. In rare circumstances animals may experience a bit of “faintness” after donation. Fluids may be administered IV or a drink given if this happens and strict rest instituted. Promptly attended this poses low risk to your pet. In human blood donor programmes there have rarely been serious events associated with blood donation including serious infections, heart attacks and death. At present Pet Blood Bank Services Limited is not aware of any such problems in the veterinary literature.

Will I be paid for my pet being a donor? 

Traditionally, donations are made without payment although, sometimes, a gesture of goodwill may be offered by the veterinary practice taking the blood. Like human donors in the UK, payment is the feel good factor, knowing you’ve helped someone else, and hoping that if you need blood for you or your pet in the future, someone will have selflessly made a donation.

How might my pets blood be used? 

Blood transfusions have many uses and can be critical, life-saving procedures. Blood loss through injury e.g. road traffic accidents or other causes of bleeding, such as rodenticide (warfarin) poisoning can lead to death or make any anaesthesia to treat underlying damage very risky. In these circumstances, fresh whole blood can make all the difference. Sometimes, an animal’s immune system can attack its own red blood cells (immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia), and blood transfusions are necessary to prevent fatal anaemia whilst medical treatment is working. As well as fresh blood, in some circumstances, whole blood can be stored for anticipated usage or even divided into component parts and stored e.g. fresh frozen plasma. In the latter case, one donation can help two or three patients!

Blood types and Cross-matching 

Dogs and cats, like humans, have blood groups and can be blood typed. Ideally, donor and recipient should be type matched. This is particularly critical in cats. As well as typing donor and recipient, cross-matches can be performed to confirm compatibility, and are recommended where the recipient has had a previous transfusion. This test involves incubating donor and recipient serum and red blood cells and looking for a reaction outside of the body that indicates an increased risk of a reaction inside the body if the transfusion is given.

How is the blood stored?

Each unit of blood is placed in a centrifuge and spun in order to separate its two main component parts – red blood cells and plasma.

Red blood cells are stored in a nutrient solution for up to 42 days in a fridge at a monitored temperature of 4 degrees centigrade.Plasma is frozen and can be stored as fresh frozen plasma for one year and as frozen plasma for up to five years at a temperature of minus 19 degrees centigrade.

Do all dogs across the UK have access to the blood bank?

Yes, all dogs in the UK have access to the blood as all veterinary surgeons are able to purchase blood from Pet Blood Bank UK.