Published: 14 Jun 2017 | Last Updated: 04 Jul 2023 12:13:37

Most people understand the role blood donors can have in saving human life. Unbeknown to many people, thousands of animals’ lives are saved by blood donors too.

There is an increasing need for dog and cat blood donors. The Royal Veterinary College (RVC), which has the busiest animal hospital blood donor programme in Europe, is encouraging more donors to come forward.

To celebrate World Blood Donor Day the RVC are announcing their very own ‘Blood Donor of the Year’ award. The award recognises the many animals who have donated blood and saved fellow animals’ lives, as well as encouraging more donors to come forward.

This year’s Blood Donor of the Year Award goes to Leo, Bertie and Dicky – a brotherly trio of Main Coon cats who have donated blood to 27 cats over the last four years.

three cats with their owner
Blood Donors of the Year, (left to right) Bertie, Dicky & Leo, 
with owner, Peter Galbavy

Leo, Bertie & Dicky are true heroes. Now six years old, they joined the donor scheme almost four years ago. They joined the RVC’s programme because their owner, Peter Galbavy, wanted to contribute towards to the well-being of the wider cat community.

Mr Galbavy first heard about the RVC’s Blood Donor Programme when he was a client at the Royal Vet College’s vet practice near Kings Cross – the Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital.  He said: “I thought this was a really good way of being able to help someone else’s cat in their hour of need.”

“It was so straight forward – the boys were tested in advance to check they were suitable donors. I thought getting them to stay still might prove to be tricky – but the RVC nurses are so experienced and confident - they make it look easy.

“When we first started donating, the boys were only donating for emergency transfusions, giving blood when a cat in need was in the hospital. Now the process is even simpler – the boys can donate their blood and, just like humans, it can be stored for weeks so it’s ready when the RVC need it most. I can simply drop them off and collect them again later. I know they are in safe hands the whole time. Afterwards they are thoroughly spoiled with cuddles and treats.

“It’s not just helping the RVC – it's great for the cats too. We get full health checks every visit which is really reassuring – especially as I know if they find anything we are surrounded by vet experts and state of the art equipment”

“Now we are regulars, the cats seem to sense exactly where they are going and they are totally relaxed and laid back about it. I am amazed by how easy the whole process is. We feel part of the RVC’s ‘family’. Often we get updates about how the recipient cat is doing and that’s such a satisfying feeling to know we have made such a positive difference. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending other pet owners to get involved.”

The RVC created its Blood Donor programme at its small animal referral hospital – the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals (QMHA) –  in 2005 to try to address the demand for dog and cat blood. This demand increases year on year, particularly given the complexity of the treatments offered at the QMHA - from open-heart surgery to emergency and critical care of trauma patients, and from spinal surgery to cancer treatment.

The RVC’s blood donors are the pets of people in the local community and they are put through a rigorous screening process to ensure they are comfortable with the process of donating blood and are healthy enough to do so. There are currently 120 canine donors and 45 feline donors registered at the QMHA and this is facilitating almost 600 transfusions per year.

The RVC is also leading the advancement of Transfusion Medicine. Thanks to funding from the RVC’s charity, the RVC Animal Care Trust (ACT), the Blood Transfusion Service has not only received cutting edge equipment for the service, it has also facilitated research projects into transfusion medicine, including looking at how effective feline transfusions are and how to optimise them. This ensures the valuable donations that our donor heroes give are used in the most effective way.

ACT funding has enabled the development of pioneering techniques with the RVC Transfusion Medicine Service, including the storage of feline blood in 2015.  Previously, when a cat needed a transfusion, the cat blood donor would have to attend the RVC hospital immediately because the blood storage systems available for cats were not sterile.  Now cat blood is now available when required, even if that is in the middle of the night.

Professor Dan Chan, Professor of Emergency and Critical Care Medicine at the RVC said: “The RVC’s Blood Donor Programme is a very valuable part of what we do at the QMHA. Over the last year alone, hundreds of animals’ lives have been saved at the QMHA through blood donations and this number is increasing year on year. We are always looking for new donors so if you think your dog or cat might be suitable please check our criteria online at Blood Donor Programme."

Press Office Contact

Uche Graves / Zoe Chadwick
T: 0800 368 9520
E: /

Notes to Editors

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a constituent College of the University of London. The RVC offers undergraduate, postgraduate and CPD programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences, being ranked in the top 10 universities nationally for biosciences degrees.  It is currently the only veterinary school in the world to hold full accreditation from AVMA, EAEVE, RCVS and AVBC.

A research-led institution, in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) the RVC maintained its position as the top HEFCE funded veterinary focused research institution.

The RVC also provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals; the Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital in central London, the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals (Europe's largest small animal referral centre), the Equine Referral Hospital, and the Farm Animal Clinical Centre located at the Hertfordshire campus.

RVC Press Release 14 June 2017

See other Press Releases.

You may also be interested in:

Top of page