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Dog blood donors needed as blood supply levels for Queensland’s pets drop

It’s common to hear the call-out for blood donors being needed but not usually for the furry four-legged variety.

Recent mice and rat plagues throughout Queensland have seen an increase in the demand for dog blood transfusions due to baiting.

University of Queensland Small Animal Hospital nurse manager Rebecca de Gier said the need for whole blood, plasma and pack cells had gone up dramatically.

Blood is only taken from healthy dogs that have had full health checks.(Supplied: UQ Small Animal Hospital)

“For the last six-months we’ve seen a real increase and we’re seeing dogs and cats needing blood transfusion as well as extending our version of blood donations to our feathered and scaly friends,” Ms de Gier said.

She said the rise of dog-friendly rat baits – which were not always safe – was behind the increase in blood needed after numerous dogs fell ill after ingesting the baits.

“It does what it does to rats and mice and to put it in a thick way the dogs start bleeding from the inside out,” Ms de Gier said.

“It does depend on the volume ingested and how long ago the dog ingests it, but we have to re-infuse them with blood cells and that involves a blood transfusion.”

How dogs donate blood

To meet the need, the UQ Small Animal Hospital has reached out to dog owners to consider their four-legged friends to become donors as part of their Community Blood Donor program.

Dogs need to be over 25 kilograms, under 7 years of age and comfortable coming into the vet surgery.

“It’s similar to how humans are encouraged, with an increased need we need more donors,” Ms de Gier said.

A bag of blood being held near a dog.
Dogs lay still for a length of time as blood is being taken.(Supplied: UQ Small Animal Hospital)

“We really need dogs that are happy to lay still for an extended amount of time as we don’t sedate them.

“We keep them calm and it’s all in the way we talk around them and the quiet room as they lay on their side as we take blood from them.”

Unlike humans, blood in dogs is only positive or negative – there are no letters used for the type of blood they have.

“Dogs that come and need a transfusion, who have had a transfusion before have an increased risk of a reaction and that’s when we do cross typing or cross matching to make sure they won’t have a reaction when we transfuse them,” she said .

Feathered friends need blood too

It’s not just animals needing the help either, birds have also been in need of blood.

“These pets live for a long period of time and people get attached to them and it’s become gold standard medicine that we do this for any surgery that could result in a bleed.

“Turtles, snacks and lizards that have a disease that destroys their red cells could need a blood transfusion and now we can do that.”

In addition to blood, plasma is also been collected.

Vets take blood from a bird.
Other animals like birds and lizards also donate blood.(Supplied: UQ Small Animal Hospital)

“Blood transfusion medication has come leaps and bounds and we have the same machines that humans are hooked up to,” Ms de Gier said.

“For particular cases that need plasma, instead of whole blood cells we can now put the red blood cells back into the patients and just use the plasma.

thank you treat

When humans donate blood, they are often given a sweet treat or snack to take with them, for the dogs it’s no different, yet it comes in the form of a pig’s ear.

“The dogs get a free six-month health check and preventative heartworm, ticks and flea treatments so you don’t have that out of pocket, and they also get a Christmas gift and a pig’s ear each time as well,” Ms de Gier said.

Dog on a surgery bed giving blood.
Dogs are not sedated while giving blood.(Supplied: UQ Small Animal Hospital)

“We don’t have a community donor program for cats and birds and reptiles, but they do transfusion as well, so we have an array of staff or clients who bring in their animals as a donor if they are healthy.

“Again, they get a full health check and then they save a life that day.”

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