Dogged in saving lives of its kind: Lanka’s first doggie blood camp | Sunday Observer

Dogged in saving lives of its kind: Lanka’s first doggie blood camp

Brave Bruno donates blood
Brave Bruno donates blood

Bruno is a regular visitor to the Rover Veterinary Hospital in Battaramulla and comes there for his vaccinations and other medical needs. Thanks to the great care given by its owner, today ,Bruno stands as one of the happiest and healthiest dogs who got selected for a greater cause. The One and half-year-old beagle visited his usual hospital on November 30 to donate blood. Yes! You heard it correct. Rover Veterinary Hospital last week conducted Sri Lanka’s first-ever Doggie blood donation program and brave Bruno was the first dog to donate blood at this program.

When people get ill and are in need of blood transfusions, the blood bank of each hospital along with the National Blood Transfusion Services aka the Blood Bank of Sri Lanka come to their assistance. Conversely, when a pet needs a blood transfusion, usually the pet owner has to find matching blood, which becomes very difficult most times. Therefore, organising a blood donation camp for pet dogs was a pertinent and innovative gesture which is indeed laudable.

Senior Lecturer at the University of Peradeniya and Chief Veterinary Officer at Rover, Dr Eranda Rajapaksha explained the background and the need for organising a blood donation camp for doggies.

Dire need

According to Rajapaksha, blood banks for pets are a dire need in society which is not only limited to Colombo but is a need of the entire country. “When a dog is sick and needs blood, we tell the owner that we need blood.

Then they seek out and bring 10-15 dogs just for this purpose. Sometimes in a rush, we cannot find the proper type of blood the pet needs. In particular, we need blood immediately when we perform a surgery,” Dr Rajapaksha explained.

In other countries where pet care is at an optimum level, there is a separate industry dedicated to breeding blood donors. A dog needs to have the right percentage of red blood cells to become a donor.

If the red blood cell count is less than 25 per cent that dog is not suitable as a donor.

Also, an average donor has to be at least 20kg in weight. Greyhounds are the most popular donor dog. It has a high red blood cell level compared to other breeds like Labrador or Retriever, Dr Rajapaksha explained.

Rover already has established its blood bank with facilities to store blood for more than two years. Now, they have embarked on a project to get donors to help other animals in need. For dogs, there are 13 known blood types whereas there are only three blood types reported from cats.

“Our program aims to identify suitable dogs who can serve as blood donors. If they become donors they can donate blood every three months which means they will get a free check-up at the same time,” said Dr Rajapaksha.

Blood donation

Twenty dogs who are regular visitors to the Rover hospital had registered for the two-day blood donation program organised over the last weekend (November 30 and December 1). On Saturday morning, Bruno came to the hospital with his owner. After taking a blood sample the veterinary team with Dr Akila Dharmasekara declared Bruno a suitable candidate to donate blood as his blood contained more than 50 per cent red blood cells.

“First thing we do is to check their temperament, whether the doggie is aggressive or friendly” Dr Akila explained.

The first attempt to put the needle into his leg was not successful as Bruno was a bit scared by the number of people around him including reporters from the Sunday Observer. After inserting the needle, the blood donation process began.

While we humans donate blood, we are given a ball to squeeze to pump blood through our veins.

In this case, Dr Akila was gently squeezing the leg of Bruno connected to the needle to pump blood through the syringe. Another veterinary surgeon and three assistants aided in the process.

Movement is synonymous with dogs. Therefore, keeping Bruno still for the time required for the blood donation was a challenge.

The process was going on, with the assistants hugging Bruno tight. Soon, Bruno was fed up with the process and tried his tricks to escape. However, Dr. Akila’s soothing voice murmuring things like “Ane putha thawa tikak ohoma inna” (Please wait a little longer my son!!) while placing her forehead against Bruno’s kept Bruno calm till the end.

It took about 20 minutes for Bruno to donate 350ml of blood into the collection bag.

“Now he is moody” Dr Akila said cuddling him gently. A packet of dog food brought by an assistant dispelled this moodiness and made brave Bruno jump up again, wagging his tail.

Rover plans to conduct the program every six months. “More than anything, what is important is the value the animal receives by saving another animal” Dr Rajapaksha commented.