Published: 17 Apr 2024 | Last Updated: 18 Apr 2024 15:28:44

We are celebrating the 20th birthday of our life-saving Blood Donor Programme – which has supported thousands of cats and dogs over the years. To mark the special occasion and provide more pets with this vital service, we have launched a special appeal to raise £150,000 to build the team a new home. 

Our Blood Donor Programme is the first and only veterinary hospital in the UK with a dedicated transfusion medicine service. It is also the only organisation in the UK that stores feline blood products. Since the first donor cohort of just 19 dogs twenty years ago, the programme currently benefits from 150 dogs and 62 cats who regularly donate their blood to others being treated at the RVC Queen Mother Hospital for Animals (QMHA). 

As well as ensuring a reliable supply of blood products for our hospital, the programme has also pioneered the development of transfusion medicine in cats and dogs carrying out research into the welfare of donors, how to store cat blood and amazingly, using dog blood to help cats.

This was the case for Millie, a six-month-old kitten who was brought into the RVC with acute anaemia and hypoglycaemia, and Feline Infectious Peritonitis. While the condition is nearly always fatal without therapy, thanks to first donor Neville, a ginger tabby, and then an emergency xenotransfusion from Willow, a border collie, Millie made a full recovery. Neville’s owner, Nicole, said “The donor team were always fantastic with Neville. He always came home happy and full of treats. Knowing that his donation has helped save the lives of other cats makes me feel very proud.”

Similarly, Rocco a three-year-old Chihuahua, had been attacked by other dogs and suffered extensive soft tissue and skeletal damage including pelvic fractures, acute kidney injuries, bite wounds and needed to have a back leg amputated. Rocco received several life-saving blood transfusions from donors Mabel, Murphy and Oliver. Owner Po said, “The families who bring their pets to give blood are amazing, we can’t thank them enough.”

With the service expanding over the years, the demand for cat and dog blood continues to grow. While fundraising efforts for the Blood Donor Programme have taken place for several years, in its 20th year, we have launched a special birthday appeal to raise £150,000 towards creating new facilities. This will not only improve the experience for donors but will also create separate dedicated areas for dogs and cats and give the team space for their own laboratory to process and store donated blood products.

Dan Chan, a local resident and the RVC’s Professor of Emergency and Critical Care Medicine, said:

"I've seen first-hand how blood donations help pets every single day and the ground-breaking clinical treatment and expert care that is provided at the hospital.

“Thanks to our special donors, blood transfusions have saved thousands of lives at the RVC over the last two decades and there are many more in need of help. Therefore, this appeal is essential in allowing us to expand and enhance our current facilities to ensure even more cats and dogs can be treated. Anything you donate will be hugely appreciated and help us to achieve this important goal.”

The special appeal’s first donor is Ken Follett, founder of the Follett Trust and best-selling author, who said:

“The aim of The Follett Trust is to support local charitable causes and those causes which are close to mine and my wife, Barbara’s, hearts. As dog lovers, we have had many Labradors over the years, and so have seen first-hand the high-quality care provided by the Royal Veterinary College. We are grateful to the RVC for its continued dedication to both pets and their owners and are proud to be able to support this new and vital venture.”

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Find out more about or Blood Donor Programme's life saving work by reading our supporter magazine Paws & Hooves

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