Making blood readily available - Veterinary Practice
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Making blood readily available

Vetinary Practice finds out about the work of a blood donation charity

BLOOD donation charity Pet Blood Bank UK (PBBuk) was set up following a change in legislation in October 2005 which made it possible for vets to store pet blood.

Before that, donors had to be sourced when a vet needed the blood, or other blood replacement products had to be used. Vets Now raised the funds to set up and support the PBBuk charity, which now supplies dogs all over the UK with life-saving blood.

The charity benefited from the donation of a mobile collection unit in 2008. The unit is designed to make it possible for PBBuk to venture further afield to collect blood supplies from donors in a wider area and at as many donation venues as possible, giving the team their own fullyequipped collection unit and comfortable client areas.

Once the mobile unit returns to base, the collected blood units are processed and made available to vet practices across the UK with a choice of same-day delivery service or more economic, specially packaged, temperature-monitored next-day delivery, which ensures that blood products can be available to as broad a spectrum of patients as is possible. Same-day delivery means that units that have passed all their necessary screening tests can potentially be delivered less than 24 hours post donation.

Fudge, a healthy 11-year-old Beagle was presented at Maes Glas Veterinary Clinic with a large swelling to the right temporal region of his head and some minor swelling to the left-hand side of his face.

Clipping the area revealed two puncture marks, and blood results showed thromobocytopaenia consistent with an adder bite. Although this seemed to provide a simple diagnosis, the attending vet felt that the high level of thrombocytopaenia could also indicate an immune-mediated disorder, so a treatment plan was implemented which covered both eventualities.

Plasma for transfusion

Fudge was admitted overnight for observation. Although he seemed well in himself, the following morning there was still fresh bleeding at the wound site, with significant bruising developing and pronounced facial swelling. Antivenom was administered at this point, and the practice contacted PBBuk for same-day delivery of fresh frozen plasma for transfusion.

Once the transfusion had been administered, Fudge remained in the clinic for a few more days to monitor his progress and treat the secondary symptoms of bruising and swelling. He had also become inappetant and polydipsic, so although his condition was no longer considered to be lifethreatening, it was felt that these symptoms should be on the way to resolution before he was allowed home.

At this time, his condition is still being closely monitored and he continues to receive on-going steroid, antibacterial and gastroprotectant therapy.

Another example of a critically ill dog that needed life-saving blood was 12-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier Tess, who was presented to the Lime Trees Veterinary Surgery in a very weak condition with extreme pain on palpation of the abdomen.

Hywel Parry made a diagnosis of histiocytosis and a splenectomy was performed. The patient remained critical with blood counts showing severe anaemia. Her condition continued to worsen, resulting in an emergency call to PBBuk, which responded with units of blood sent out on the same – day delivery.

Mr Parry said: “It was evident that the dog was becoming weaker, and her blood count was giving us extreme cause for concern. It was essential to get her transfused, and fast. We are already advocates of PBBuk, having used the service in the past, and held blood drives for the charity at the practice, so we were completely confident that it could get supplies to us in time to save the life of our patient.”

Remarkable recovery

Once the transfusion took place, Tess made a remarkable recovery and has continued to improve in the weeks since her transfusion. Owner Mr Smith has been pleasantly surprised by the change in his pet, who has not just returned to normal, but appears to have taken on a completely new lease of life.

“Tess went downhill so fast and was so ill that we really didn’t expect her to make it. The practice did a fantastic job of keeping us informed throughout her treatment, so when it became obvious that her only chance lay with a transfusion, we were able to make that decision very quickly. PBBuk dispatched the order immediately and the vital supplies arrived within hours.

“Following her transfusion, she started to improve very rapidly, and is now home and continuing to amaze us with her new-found zest for life! We are enormously grateful to Lime Trees Veterinary Surgery and to PBBuk for saving Tess, and just wish that our other dogs could make the required weight to become donors themselves.”

To date, 1,700 dogs have been signed up to the charity’s register, and every time one of these dogs donates blood, it potentially saves the lives of four other dogs.

State-of-the-art base

PBBuk’s mobile unit allows them to travel to collect blood before returning it to the state-of-the-art Loughborough base for preparation, storage and distribution. Each unit of blood is placed into a centrifuge and spun in order to separate its two main component parts – red blood cells and plasma.

Red blood cells are stored in a nutrient solution for up to 42 days in a fridge at a monitored temperature at 4ºC. Plasma is frozen and can be stored as fresh frozen plasma for one year and as frozen plasma for up to five years at minus 18ºC.

Jenny Walton, veterinary supervisor at PBBuk, says: “All dogs in the UK have access to the blood as PBBuk’s services are available to all veterinary surgeries. At the heart of our ethos is the aim to provide blood products to as many patients as possible.

“Our charitable remit focuses on the welfare of all our donors and recipients and educating both the profession and the public in veterinary transfusion medicine and the importance of a pet blood banking service.”

The charity, supported by Vets Now, is currently researching blood collection in cats and hopes to extend its service to feline patients in the near future.

■ Further details about PBBuk can be found on the website, or by calling 01509 232 222 or 0844 800 9925.

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