Dogs give their blood

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Humans give blood all the time – and as it turns out, dogs do, too.

Donor dogs gathered with their handlers at the Oamaru Veterinary Centre on Tuesday, to celebrate the canine group’s efforts in helping save the lives of numerous dogs that were victims of accidents or had become ill.

Veterinarian Sarah Boys said it was not commonly known that dogs, like humans, regularly donated blood.

“I don’t think many people do know. It’s definitely a talking point.”

There were two common reasons for a dog requiring donor blood, Miss Boys said.

One was rat bait toxicity, which prevented an animal’s blood from clotting and caused internal bleeding, and the other was related to road accidents. A dog could lose a significant amount of blood if hit by a vehicle.

As canine blood can only be stored for a month, the centre did not have large amounts on hand if an emergency occurred.

Miss Boys said if required, the owner of one of the six donor dogs was called at short notice.

The dog was brought into to the clinic and slightly sedated so blood could be extracted and injected directly into the injured or sick dog.

“We take about 500ml from each dog and just put it in the other one, really.”

On average, donor blood was required twice a month.

Only dogs with the DEA 4 or DEA 6 type can serve as blood donors for the majority of the canine population.

She said dogs were attracted to rat bait and if they ingested enough it could be fatal.

However, in most cases, a dog would not have eaten that much and would take a few days to recover.

Miss Boys said rat poison could be found everywhere from farms to garages and garden sheds.

“Most people who have dogs with rat bait toxicity come in and say they’ve had no access to rat bait, so it can come from some really unexpected places.

“I think it does taste good to dogs because it attracts rats, so it might be tasty.”

Symptoms of rat bait toxicity included a lack of energy, pale gums, coughing, blood in faeces and even limping if a dog had managed to squeeze into a tight space to get at rat bait.

She said people needed to be aware rat bait was attractive to dogs and to place it where it was not easily accessible to a dog.

The clinic also had three cats that donated blood for felines that required it.