Dog blood donors call by Pets Blood Bank UK in shortage
Parts of rural Wales are particularly at risk from a UK-wide shortage of donor blood for dogs, according to the only nationwide blood bank.
Pets Blood Bank UK (PBBUK) is holding donor recruitment sessions in Wales throughout July.
But because of geography they say vets in Wales must also know where blood can be sourced locally in an emergency.
PBBUK believes that at any one time they may have no more than a few days' supply of blood and related products.
Its spokesperson Joanne Patterson said the summer was especially problematic.
"While people are planning their holidays they're more concerned about kennelling their dogs and making sure they'll be happy than they are about giving blood," she said.
"But even though the summer is a particular problem, it can be a struggle year-round to ensure we have safe stock levels.
"The feedback we've had isn't so much that owners are reluctant to allow their pets to become donors, it's more that it simply doesn't dawn on them that there's a need for animal blood until their own pet requires it.
"So we're just trying to make all owners and vets aware of the issue whether they go on a local register or donate through PBBUK, or indeed both."
While PBBUK is alone in stockpiling a number of specialised products, Ms Patterson explained that when time is of the essence in an emergency, locally-sourced donors can often be the best solution.
"The advantage of PBBUK is that we have the laboratory facilities to produce not just blood, but also a whole range of derivatives such as plasma for burns or poisoning, white blood cells for immunological problems, and clotting agents for extensive bleeding," she added.
"But given that we're based in Loughborough, often the best option for straightforward emergency transfusions can be local donors, especially in parts of Wales which can be difficult to reach by road in a hurry.
"So whilst we'll always help with any request if we can, vets should also canvass their customers to create a local list of owners who'd be prepared to allow their pets to be donors."
Sheila Stewart, founder of the Capricorn Animal Sanctuary in Padeswood, Flintshire, has done that and is now on call for veterinary emergencies across north Wales.
"We'd always helped out the local vet on an ad hoc basis, until three dogs all needed blood on the same night," she said.
"It made me realise that there was a need to set up a more formal register.
"So now we can call on not only the dogs who we care for ourselves, but also the owners of the dogs we re-home if they're willing, and we've even put the word out for volunteers through local clubs and trainers.
"It's absolutely harmless to the donor dog and they might go their entire life without being called upon in any case. So if it could potentially save another dog's life, then why not?"
Mike Jessop, a vet in Merthyr Tydfil, agreed that the geography of Wales posed particular challenges.
He said: "Owners need to be aware of the need for volunteers, and vets - especially those who're more than an hour away from urban centres - need to have an emergency plan for what they'd do if they were to receive a major trauma requiring more than one transfusion."
"But it's by no means doom and gloom. There are actually more blood donors than ever before, and the reason that there's a shortage is because we're getting better and better at treating conditions which would have almost certainly proved fatal in the past."
While dogs, like humans, do have various different blood groups, they do not have as strong an immune response to blood other than their own type, meaning that in most circumstances a donation from any dog will be accepted by any other.
Donor dogs must weigh over 25kg and be fit and healthy. The most common breeds used are labradors, German shepherds and rottweilers, although any large breed is suitable.
Interested owners can sign up at their local vet or via the PBBUK website.