Heart surgery

Finding canine blood donors to help heart surgery patients

SEEKING DOG DONORS: Four-year-old retired Greyhound Nessie donates blood at Dick White Referrals in Six Mile Bottom.


Dog owners are urged to consider volunteering their canine companions to help pets undergoing life-saving heart surgery at a Cambridgeshire animal hospital.

Dick White Referrals (DWR) in Six Mile Bottom, Cambridgeshire, is one of the few centers in the world to perform heart surgery on dogs.

In order to have life-saving heart surgery, a blood donation is required from a suitable canine donor before each procedure and DWR is appealing to dog owners to consider volunteering their pet to help.

Craig Bailey, Cardiothoracic Nurse at DWR, said: “Donating blood is such a selfless act. For a dog owner to allow their beloved pet to do this and for that dog to allow us to donate is amazing.

DWR launched its cardiac surgery service in October last year and has performed 14 operations in the past nine months. Most involved mitral valve disease, which is the most common heart disease in dogs.

To allow these operations to take place, DWR needs to have canine donors with a matching blood type on standby ready to donate blood shortly after surgery.

Four-year-old retired greyhound, Nessie.

Craig said: “During surgery we use a heart-lung machine, just like in humans, to enable the heart to stop. This affects the blood clotting abilities of the body. Fresh blood contains many more blood clotting factors than stored blood, which makes a huge difference to the recovery of these patients.

“Before the operation, each patient is matched with a blood donor of their blood type and we organize a blood draw the morning of the operation.

“Some of our donors have been able to meet the patient who received their blood during surgery, and it’s so rewarding for owners to learn that donating their dog meant we could help another dog.”

One of the donors who donates blood to the DWR is Nessie, a four-year-old retired greyhound.

Her owner, Egle Juzenaite, who lives in Ely, Cambridgeshire, said: “It’s nice to see Nessie helping other dogs. I had heard from other retired greyhound owners online that as a breed they were good candidates to be blood donors, so I was looking for a place where she could donate blood.

“Nessie has donated for two surgeries so far and has been on hold for a third. After one of the surgeries, DWR sent me a video of the dog who subsequently received Nessie’s blood – the watching was a great moment.

“To anyone considering offering their dog as a blood donor, I would say it is a truly rewarding experience.”

Dogs that are put forward as candidates to become donors first visit DWR for a health check and evaluation to see if they are suitable to help.

Dogs who become donors receive free vet checks each time they donate and a free annual health check-up, as well as dog food and a bandana to proudly show off their donation.

To be a good candidate for a canine blood donor, dogs must be fit and healthy, between the ages of one and eight years old, and weigh more than 40 pounds.

They must not have received a blood transfusion themselves, be on medication, have traveled outside the UK or Ireland or be an imported animal.

They should be up to date with their annual vaccinations and worming and flea treatment, and be comfortable and relaxed around people.

Indeed, from an ethical point of view, DWR guarantees that dogs are ready to participate in blood donation if they have to be donors, without the need for sedation and that they are not too stressed.

To find out more about the blood donation program and whether your dog might be a suitable donor, email: [email protected]