Northern Ireland

Facebook blood donor appeal for sick County Down dog

Creggy sits in a cone in his basket Image copyright David Reaney
Image caption Creggy, a 12-year old spaniel, received a life-saving blood transfusion

When you think of lifesaving blood transfusions, an image of a dog attached to a drip doesn't immediately spring to mind.

But an emergency Facebook appeal by a County Down vet for doggie blood donors is helping to change all that.

It was issued after Creggy, a 12-year old springer spaniel, from Ballyhalbert, suddenly became unwell.

Owner David Reaney said he first noticed Creggy's breathing becoming heavy, but initially blamed the dog's age and the hot weather.

"I went to the vets where they diagnosed him with an enlarged spleen and said it needed to come out," he said.

"They knew that when they took it out he would lose a lot of blood, so they needed to find a donor."

The vet usually uses his own dog for blood donations, but as the animal had given blood recently he could not donate again so quickly.

Vets can also get blood reserves from a national charity, Pet Blood Bank UK, that operates in Leicestershire, but has a blood-sharing scheme across the UK.

Image copyright Vets4pets bangor
Image caption The vet's own dog Cooper is usually used for the live-saving transfusions, but was unable to on this occasion

As delivery takes longer to Northern Ireland, a practice in Belfast can supply to other vets - but this service was not available at the time.

In desperate need of an alternative donor, a social media appeal was issued in an attempt to get Creggy his urgent transfusion.

Overwhelming response

One of those who replied was Lora Fawcett, whose seven-year-old Labrador, Tucker, came to Creggy's rescue.

"They gave him a little bit of light sedation. But he was fine and comfortable because they all know him there," she said.

"The vet nurse gave him two big meals and took him for a walk.

"When he got home he had a wee nap and had dinner like normal. It hasn't affected him in any way."

Bangor vet Stephen McLean said there had been an "overwhelming" response to their appeal, with dozens of owners offering to come forward.

He said he was "pleased to see so many dog lovers who were committed to help".

Image copyright Lora Fawcett
Image caption Hero dog Tucker is pictured with his bandage on after his donation, with Lora's other dog Titan who is still too young to donate

Tucker, along with many of the pets of people who contacted the surgery on social media, is now on a list of emergency donors in case a similar situation arises again.

Only dogs of a certain weight and in a particular age range are suitable for blood donation.

They can only give blood every few months and must not be on any medication. They are carefully weighed and tested to make sure only the right amount is taken from them.

Dogs have different blood types like people, but they can receive an initial, unmatched blood sample in an emergency situation.

Pet Blood Bank UK do not offer donor sessions in Northern Ireland at the moment, but most local vets have to use blood transfusions several times a year.

Image copyright Pet blood bank uk
Image caption A dog is pictured at Pet blood bank UK donating for the emergency national supply

Usually it is dogs with blood conditions such as anaemia that require the service, but the process can also be life-saving in trauma situations, as seen with Creggy.

As for him... well his owner is simply delighted with the outcome.

"I'm astounded so many people offered to help. I am so grateful to them for saving Creggy's life" he said.

The spaniel had his emergency surgery and after a spell of rest is now getting back to normal - pestering his owner for walks.