Our pioneering blood donor programme helps keep thousands of critically ill animals alive every year.

 221 dogs and cats are saving lives every day at the RVC’s Queen Mother Hospital for Animals (QMHA). These wonderful animals come with their owners to donate their blood for use in a variety of complex treatments that save the lives of other poorly pets.  

As RVC vets and scientists devise pioneering new treatments, the demand for blood within the hospital grows. The only commercial supplier of pet blood in the UK is unable to keep up with the QMHA’s demand so the hospital has to source its own blood from volunteer donors. In 2018 the QMHA’s donor cats and dogs made 416 blood donations, which were used in 657 blood transfusions – almost double the amounts donated and transfused just five years ago.  

The team who look after the donors and process their donated blood are busier than ever. They urgently need investment to enable them to keep up with the increasing demand for blood products, whilst still giving our valued donors the calm and quiet experience they need. With more blood being donated, it is also important they have the equipment to safely and efficiently process donated blood and ensure it can be stored to benefit as many sick animals as possible.

As well as the costs of growing the service and purchasing new equipment, detailed below, there are ongoing costs involved in the team’s high standards of donor care. All of the donors are given full health checks before donations and a full blood screening is performed free of charge annually. We also give our donors a special blood donor tag to recognise their support and each receives a special gift when they retire, which all incur costs. We would be incredibly grateful if you were able to help our superhero donors and support the blood donor team’s work. Your gift will ensure these lovely lifesavers are well looked after, whilst also ensuring their blood is used in the best possible way to save even more lives.

The costs

New vet bed and mattress = £500

Quieter suction machine = £1,022

Table-top centrifuge for serum eye drops = £2,000

Additional tube sealer = £2,850

Larger fridge to accommodate feline blood = £3,000

Annual screening and gifts for donors = £5,750

Increasing staff resource = £27,000

To help our heroes and the team that looks after them please click here

Case study - Teca

Teca was severely ill when she was admitted in December 2018. Her immune system had started mistaking her red blood cells for something dangerous and was destroying them; a condition called Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia (IMHA). Her packed cell volume was dangerously low at just 14% in comparison to the normal 55% and without new blood that her body would tolerate she would not have survived.

In two weeks Teca received 10 blood transfusions from donor dogs - including Archie pictured below. Two of Teca’s transfusions were performed on Christmas Day! Our vets also performed three cycles of therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) using the ACT funded cell saver machine. This involved removing Teca’s blood, separating out her plasma and replacing it with donated plasma.

Teca is a small dog only weighing 5kg, so the ACT funded tube welder meant that donated samples could safely be split into smaller units suitable for her tiny body, without compromising the rest of the donated blood in the unit. After these
intense treatments, only possible thanks to ACT donations and donated blood, Teca is now recovering well at home.

  

Case study - Bosco

Bosco's story as told by his owners...

Bosco was the last born of a litter on 4th June 2017. His parents were a demure Russian Blue female and a suspected local tabby bruiser. From the beginning, being the runt of the litter, he had a few health concerns. 

When Bosco was neutered his post-operation recovery was painful. There was a large blood swelling that took many weeks to disappear. In hindsight that makes sense...

As he grew, Bosco developed a limp and the vet pronounced that he had a hip dysplasia problem requiring surgery. We waited a long time before finally relenting and on 24th July, Bosco had an operation on his worst hip. We brought him home and over the course of two days we realised something was wrong because he stopped eating and even turned his little nose up at his beloved Dreamies treats! So we returned to the vet and they told us he had anaemia and kept him in overnight to administer some fluids and observe him. The next day his blood count had dropped further indicating there was something more serious going on, possibly internal bleeding.

  Our vets advised we get Bosco to the Royal Veterinary College Queen Mother Hospital for Animals that day, as he probably wouldn’t last the night. When Bosco arrived at the hospital he looked a shadow of his former self and was rushed to an oxygen kennel – vital equipment for extremely poorly pets like Bosco which was funded by the RVC Animal Care Trust.

After some tests the RVC vets said he needed a blood transfusion but they didn’t know if they had the right blood type. If they didn’t Bosco would have had to have a dog’s blood transfusion (a xenotransfusion)! We have always thought he might be part dog as his tail won’t stop wagging! We had to leave him there and waited nervously for news. They called us the following morning to tell us they had given him a blood transfusion as luckily they had the one type of blood needed for Bosco, Blood-type A. Pirelli’s blood. After his transfusion he perked up quickly and after just two days we could bring him home.

Bosco has been diagnosed with haemophilia B, a rare condition in cats in which the blood is unable to clot properly leading to excessive bleeding, which will need careful management. He has now made a nearly full recovery from the hip operation. He still walks with a limp but he can run and jump, perhaps with less confidence but he is active and stupidly brave. He also likes to sleep close to us on our beds and purr softly, which is a bit distracting but in a good way.


It’s hard to put into words just what it means to still have this fluff-ball with us. He is a constant worry but he is so loved and we’re just overjoyed to be able to look after and play with him. Thank you so much to Pirelli for donating your blood,
we’re sure Bosco would not have made it without it.

 

Case study - Ralphie

Ralphie was admitted to the RVC's Queen Mother Hospital for Animals with a serious illness which was causing him a total lack of energy and appetite. The first week at the RVC was a tense one, with his red blood count dropping to 12 (40-50 is normal range for a dog) and his continued complete lack of appetite causing rapid weight loss. Whilst in the hospital Ralphie underwent several blood transfusions to try and kick start his immune system and with the determination of Ralphie and the RVC's team of specialist vets and nurses, Ralphie slowly began to improve and was able to go home at the end of the second week to continue his recovery. After several months of tender loving care from his owners and careful veterinary monitoring Ralphie is almost back to his old self.
Emily, Ralphie's owner, talks about Ralphie's illness and how the RVC helped to save his life.

Case study - George

 George the Springer Spaniel came to the QMHA for further management of a previously diagnosed pyothorax (infection within the chest cavity). A CT scan confirmed the presence of intra-thoracic abscess formation (septic mediastinitis) and George was taken to surgery. Abscess formation within the chest often occurs as a result of a migrating foreign body such as a grass seed. The surgery went well with the majority of the infected mediastinum being removed.

 Unfortunately post-operatively George developed an acute bleeding disorder with profuse bleeding within his chest. As a bleeding vessel could not be excluded George was returned to theatre for exploration. At surgery diffuse bleeding was identified. George stayed in the high dependency unit of the ICU receiving multiple blood and plasma transfusions using blood donated by the RVC's donor dogs as part of his supportive care. George recovered slowly from surgery and was discharged for continued observation and care at home.

A couple of months later George was back to full health and enjoying life thanks to the staff at the QMHA and several of our wonderful doggy blood donors.

Billy and Zac are the donors who have currently made the most donations with both of them making their 20th earlier this year. This means that George is one of at least 40 dogs that these dogs individually have helped to save - combined these 5 dogs have helped to save at least 128 other dogs!

Donor requirements

We rely exclusively on the goodwill of local pet owners who bring their pets (cats and dogs) to donate blood; they are not paid for this service. We have an ongoing recruitment process as we only allow pets to donate blood for a limited period of time. Donors must fit the following criteria:

  • be between one and seven years old
  • canine donors must be over 25kg and feline donors over 4kg
  • have not received a blood transfusion
  • be healthy and not on medication
  • have yearly vaccinations and regular worming and flea treatment
  • be easy to handle
  • have not travelled abroad

Our donors are given health checks before donations and a full blood screening is performed free of charge annually. We also give our donors a special blood donor tag to recognise their support and each receives a special gift when they retire.

If you think your cat or dog could be an RVC superhero please contact the blood donor programme team.

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