Dog blood donors take the lead in canine lifesaving

Lesley Duncan with Sally, left, and Finn. Picture: Judy Vickers
Lesley Duncan with Sally, left, and Finn. Picture: Judy Vickers
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A LOTHIAN vet practice is setting up a doggie blood donor list after one of its canine patients almost died.

Eleven-year-old rescue mongrel Finn was minutes from death after his spleen ruptured out on a walk with his owner in a country park. An emergency blood transfusion from his “sister” Sally helped him to pull through – but now the vet who saved him wants to make sure that in future blood donors are on hand for owners who don’t have other dogs.

Owner Lesley Duncan, 40, was out walking Finn with her other dogs, Sally and Ruby, both lurchers, in Beecraigs, near Linlithgow.

“He is an active dog, always has been, and he was off chasing the other two when we were about halfway around and suddenly it was like someone pulled his batteries out,” she explained. “He just stopped running and looked at me. I knew something was wrong.”

Within minutes Finn couldn’t walk and Lesley was having to carry him.

She called her local vets and within minutes he was on the table at Westport Veterinary Clinic in Linlithgow. “By then he couldn’t lift his head. I was really, really upset. They said it looked like he was bleeding inside and needed a transfusion. They were phoning around dog owners trying to find someone with a dog over 25kg who could give a transfusion. I don’t think he would have lasted another half an hour.

“He was pretty much away. Then the receptionist said: ‘What about your other dogs?’ I’d been in too much of a panic to think. Ruby was too light but Sally was OK.”

Finn’s operation saw a tumour removed from his spleen and, thanks to the blood transfusion, he was soon back to his bouncy self.

Dog blood transfusions have been in the news after the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh held its first blood donor sessions for dogs last month. Eighteen dogs turned up to donate for the Pet Blood Bank UK.

Vet Stuart McMorrow, who operated on Finn, said: “That’s a brilliant service and we have referred dogs there who need blood for chronic conditions. But I had an emergency a while ago at six o’clock in the evening where I had to remove half a dog’s liver – if we’d had to wait for blood to come around the bypass from Edinburgh at that time, the dog would have been dead.”

Dogs, unlike cats or people, can take one transfusion of any canine blood type, and Stuart is starting a list of donors to save the clinic from a frantic and possibly fruitless phone-around when an emergency like Finn’s arrives and potentially save animals’ lives.

Hopefully it will be a legacy that Finn leaves behind – because although his life was saved at the time, the tumour on his spleen turned out to be malignant.

“He’s got about six months to go,” said Lesley, adding that the operation had been worthwhile to give her and her dog a last few months together.

“You don’t want to short-change them. And everyone should have a dog like Finn.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com