Give blood

Pet Blood Bank UK is giv­ing gun­dogs across the coun­try­side a sec­ond chance and it couldn’t be eas­ier to lend your sup­port.

Shooting Gazette - - Welcome - Words: mary brem­ner

No­body wants to see a gun­dog suf­fer­ing on a shoot day af­ter a nasty fall or in­jury that has drawn blood. Too of­ten the in­juries our gun­dogs sus­tain need ur­gent med­i­cal at­ten­tion and, sadly, not ev­ery episode has a happy end­ing. Thank good­ness then for Pet Blood Bank UK, a char­ity that is look­ing to the gun­dog fra­ter­nity to help it build stocks of blood that could help save the lives of our four-footed com­pan­ions when they and their own­ers face their dark­est hour.

Pic­ture the scene if you can. You are out pickingup and one of your dogs jumps a fence with­out you notic­ing there is barbed wire. There is blood ev­ery­where, and if you can’t stem the bleed­ing it is an emer­gency dash to the vet to save the dog’s life, of­ten with a blood trans­fu­sion. Sadly, sit­u­a­tions like this hap­pen quite fre­quently, and sadly the out­come is not al­ways a life saved. Be­fore a change in leg­is­la­tion, to save a dog’s life with a blood trans­fu­sion usu­ally meant the near­est avail­able dog was used to do­nate blood. Some­times this worked, but not al­ways. Blood trans­fu­sions are needed in many cir­cum­stances, and not al­ways emer­gen­cies. Trauma, dis­ease and dur­ing surgery are the most com­mon rea­sons, in­clud­ing dogs be­ing knocked down, or poi­soned as some poi­sons stop the blood clot­ting. Auto im­mune dis­eases, tu­mours, some ma­jor op­er­a­tions — all may need trans­fu­sions, just the same as peo­ple.

Wendy Bar­nett, clin­i­cal di­rec­tor of the char­ity Pet Blood Bank UK, knew emer­gency vets, work­ing out of hours, were of­ten high users of blood and that it was not al­ways avail­able when it was needed ur­gently. As you can imag­ine, this was very stress­ful for the vet, and owner, as they then had to find an emer­gency donor, quickly, as it was a mat­ter of life and death. In 2005, leg­is­la­tion in the UK was changed to al­low vets to store blood un­der li­cence. Be­fore then vets were only al­lowed to col­lect blood for emer­gency cases.

Wendy, with sup­port from Vets Now, set up Pet Blood Bank UK, a char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion, in Fe­bru­ary 2007. Wendy’s back­ground is in ve­teri­nary nurs­ing, but she also worked tak­ing blood from peo­ple. She re­alised there was a need for emer­gency vets, who were usu­ally

“Dogs that are DEA 1 Neg­a­tive can only re­ceive neg­a­tive blood, which many gun­dog breeds have.”

work­ing at night, to have blood to hand, rather than to have to make an emer­gency call, so did a lot of re­search and gained a li­cence al­low­ing Pet Blood Bank UK to col­lect, process and store blood. The US is years ahead of us with re­gards to this, so Wendy spent time out there learn­ing about tech­niques and also spent a lot of time talk­ing to hu­man blood banks in the UK.

“They were re­ally help­ful, as ba­si­cally the premise is ex­actly the same for dogs as peo­ple,” ex­plained Wendy. “We wanted ev­ery vet to be able to ac­cess blood eas­ily so de­cided to set up the blood bank in the mid­dle of the coun­try, in Lough­bor­ough, with close ac­cess to the M1. This meant we had good links to all of the coun­try.”

The bank is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A courier ser­vice will de­liver the blood to vets, ei­ther as an emer­gency dash or, if an op­er­a­tion is sched­uled, the day be­fore. One of the ve­teri­nary team will of­ten make the col­lec­tion. Large ve­teri­nary prac­tices are now able to store blood and will of­ten al­low smaller prac­tices to use it. Plasma lasts for up to five years, frozen, and red blood cells six weeks. Ob­vi­ously it is not cost ef­fec­tive for smaller prac­tices to store the blood as the shelf life is so short. This is where Pet Blood Bank UK comes in.

A lot of re­search has been done into dogs’ blood, a lot of it by Wendy and her team. Dogs, like hu­mans, have pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive blood and have dif­fer­ent blood types. They can ei­ther be DEA 1 Pos­i­tive or DEA 1 Neg­a­tive. From the re­search, 70 per cent of dogs ap­pear to be DEA 1 Pos­i­tive while only 30 per cent are DEA 1 Neg­a­tive.

Dogs with the DEA 1 Neg­a­tive blood type can only re­ceive DEA 1 Neg­a­tive blood whereas dogs with DEA 1 Pos­i­tive can re­ceive ei­ther pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive blood.

Blood type isn’t nec­es­sar­ily breed re­lated but it turns out that all rot­tweil­ers are pos­i­tive. In­ter­est­ingly, many gun­dog breeds are more likely to be neg­a­tive, par­tic­u­larly flat­coated retriev­ers, point­ers, weimaran­ers and some labradors. Grey­hounds and lurchers are also pre­dom­i­nantly neg­a­tive. And this is where the gun­dog com­mu­nity comes in. Pet Blood Bank UK is look­ing for doggy donors. So far it has more than 9,000 donors but need many more to be able to sup­ply ev­ery vet in the coun­try with enough blood. Its team is col­lect­ing five days a week across the UK.

Strict but sim­ple

The cri­te­ria for a dog is quite strict. The dog must be aged be­tween one and eight years – donat­ing up to their ninth birth­day – weigh more than 25kg and be fit and healthy and not on any med­i­ca­tion. It must never have had a trans­fu­sion, be up to date with its jabs, and never have trav­elled abroad.

The ac­tual do­na­tion process is sim­ple and sim­i­lar to the hu­man pro­ce­dure, tak­ing less than 45 min­utes, in­clud­ing all checks. If you visit the web­site and put in your post­code, the near­est donor cen­tre will pop up; a ve­teri­nary prac­tice close by. The team, made up of a vet, nurses and as­sis­tants, will visit each cen­tre four or five times a year so your dog can do­nate that many times. The ac­tual do­na­tion process is made very pleas­ant for dog, and owner, and they seem to en­joy it. There is a nice soft bed and lots of fuss and tummy tick­ling – for the donor, not the owner.

In to­tal, 450ml is taken at each ses­sion, vir­tu­ally the same amount as we would give, and the same bags are used for dogs and peo­ple – hence the dog hav­ing to be above a cer­tain weight. The donor’s leg will be shaved slightly as this is where the sam­ple blood is taken from. This blood is then tested, and if ev­ery­thing is fine, a small bit of hair, to make sure the skin is clean, is shaved from the neck so the blood can be taken from the jugu­lar. The main do­na­tion usu­ally takes be­tween five and seven min­utes.

“Some labradors can whack it out in four min­utes,” ex­plained Wendy. Each 450ml do­na­tion can help save up to four dogs’ lives. One unit of blood is split in half, with some be­ing stored as plasma and the rest as blood; half-units are made for smaller dogs, hence help­ing to save up to four dogs’ lives.

Alan Dun­net, a picker-up from Scot­land, is a reg­u­lar at his lo­cal ses­sion. He has five labradors, two wire­haired point­ers and two springers, and is out pick­ing-up five days a week, more than 100 days a year, on the Drum­lan­rig and Bowhill es­tates, and oth­ers, in Dum­friesshire.

“My wife works at the vets and I saw a re­quest for blood donors,” ex­plained Alan. “I thought it was a good idea as I know there is a strong pos­si­bil­ity that one of my dogs might need this ser­vice one day. It is nice to think my dogs are help­ing save a life.” All of Alan’s dogs are donors, bar the spaniels, and are reg­u­lar donors. They are also quite the stars lo­cally. One of the black

labs has neg­a­tive blood, as do his point­ers, which has been used more than once for an emer­gency case.

Blood screen­ing

“My dogs don’t mind giv­ing blood at all – they hop on the bed and lap up the at­ten­tion. There are no side ef­fects – they are back out pickingup the next day,” said Alan, who takes all of his dogs to each ses­sion. “I stay with them through­out the do­na­tion. What I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate is that at ev­ery ses­sion each dog’s blood is screened, so if there is a med­i­cal prob­lem it is picked up much more quickly than it would be with­out the screen­ing.” Alan is a keen ad­vo­cate for the dogs be­ing blood donors and would en­cour­age other own­ers to do the same. “We are giv­ing some­thing back, it doesn’t take long, and is such a worth­while ser­vice.”

Wendy is also keen to en­cour­age more gun­dog own­ers. “The dogs are usu­ally fit and healthy, not over­weight and with good blood scores. They are also usu­ally re­ally obe­di­ent and so­cia­ble, so will keep still dur­ing the pro­ce­dure, and have great na­tures. Cru­cially, many of the dogs have neg­a­tive blood types, but we are equally happy to see any dog that fits the cri­te­ria,” she ex­plained.

Af­ter the do­na­tion the dog is given some treats – if al­lowed – picks a toy, gets lots of fuss, is given a red ban­dana and has a photo taken for so­cial me­dia.

“We want it to be a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and for the dog, and owner, to en­joy it. We will never force a dog, and like them to be re­laxed and en­joy the fuss, which they do,’ added Wendy.

Once the blood has been col­lected it is taken back to the blood bank at Lough­bor­ough where it is pro­cessed and stored.

Pet Blood Bank UK is a char­ity, so only charges the vets for the blood at cost, and ex­pects the vet to charge the owner the same. The long-term plan is for ev­ery vet in the coun­try to have plasma on the premises, as this can be frozen for up to five years and helps the blood to co­ag­u­late.

More donors are needed, and there will be many, many dog own­ers who will be very grate­ful for your help. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit pet­blood­

A team of flat­coated retriev­ers wear the red ban­danas they are pre­sented with for giv­ing blood.

Donat­ing your dog's blood doesn't take long and helps to save lives.

An­other suc­cess­ful do­na­tion.

The dogs re­ceive lots of fuss while giv­ing blood, and a toy and treat at the end.

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