One of Ireland’s top animal hospitals has called for the establishment of a national canine blood bank service, similar to the one that exists in the United Kingdom.
Kevin Murtagh, a veterinarian at the University College of Dublin Veterinary Hospital, says that Irish practices don’t have the “luxury” of the Pet Blood Bank UK, which delivers blood to vets across the UK.
Dr Murtagh, an assistant professor who has practiced in Lincolnshire, Liverpool and Winchester, said that British vets can call the national blood bank and have blood products couriered to them at any time.
He said: “In Ireland, we don’t have that system, and the blood we give our patients is completely dependent on the public bringing their dog to us and donating.
“I would be absolutely be in support of something similar to the UK’s system in Ireland.”
A national Irish blood bank “would make treating our patients more efficient and other practices around the country could utilise that system as well”, he said.
Dr Murtagh’s call is backed by the clinical lead of the UCD Vet Hospital’s blood donation programme, Monica Augusto.
She told Sky News that it would be “lovely” to have a national blood bank set up in Ireland.
“It would involve a variety of vets and be a bigger programme than we currently have, yes it would be really, really nice to have that at some stage,” she said.
“I’m sure the local practices would appreciate it, as they struggle to get donors generally and have blood available when they need it.”
And the blood is certainly needed.
In Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, a four-year-old miniature schnauzer named Bertie is recovering from a severe immune disorder which saw him rushed to the UCD Vet Hospital two months ago.
As part of his treatment, Bertie was given a life-saving transfusion.
His owner Chris Murphy said: “As an owner you tend not to think of blood donors for dogs, but without that blood donation, Bertie would’ve died.
“We went from having a perfectly healthy dog to a dog that just would not have survived without that blood donation.”
“Lots of people don’t realise that blood donation is a thing in our field or don’t realise that dogs need it as part of their treatment”, said Dr Murtagh.
“Dogs are very similar to humans, they suffer from a multitude of diseases that require blood transfusions, and without those many would not survive.
“From an internal medicine point of view, we see plenty of cases that require blood transfusions to allow time for drugs to combat whatever disease they have, and without that, we’d have a lot more fatalities.
“There are cases that require multiple transfusions. It’s not uncommon for a dog to need two or three or more blood transfusions for that single disease, so that’s why donors are so important for us to treat our animals.”
UCD Veterinary Hospital was forced to launch an “urgent” appeal for blood in December, after exhausting its supply.
There was an “amazing” response from the public, according to Monica Augusto, but the pressure is always on for supply.
At the clinic, Bodhi, a one-year-old collie-retriever cross, is giving blood.
He meets the physical criteria; dogs must be aged between one and eight years, weigh more than 25 kilogrammes, fully vaccinated, never received a transfusion and never travelled outside Ireland or the UK.
A good temperament is also required, and after a sedative, Bodhi is able to donate a unit of blood with the minimum of fuss.
Dr Murtagh says that generally donor dogs “don’t seem to mind it at all, and they don’t have any adverse effects from it either. They’re usually very calm”.
He added: “Sometimes if they’re a little bit upset, we give them something to help them relax a little bit.”
In the absence of a national blood bank in Ireland, the life-saving work at hospitals like UCD will continue to depend on donors like Bodhi being brought directly to the hospital – so that patients like Bertie can have a second chance at life.
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