‘Life-saving’ blood transfusion scheme launched to help sick donkeys

Blood from healthy donkeys will be used to treat their sick peers in a new “life-saving” transfusion scheme.

The Donkey Sanctuary developed the scheme using guidelines approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) in the hope of using plasma from its own herds to treat ill donkeys.

A spokesman for the Donkey Sanctuary said: “The charity was buying in bags of frozen plasma at a cost of over £100 each and was keen to find an alternative.

“Thanks to a new blood transfusion scheme developed at the charity’s specialist hospital, donkeys can now be treated with blood taken from their peers.”

Donkey Sanctuary senior veterinary surgeon Alex Thiemann said: “We spent a great deal of time discussing procedures and the value of a plasma bank with the RCVS and together set up some ethical guidelines before instigating the scheme.

“Participating donkeys have to be the right age and in good physical condition – they are thoroughly health checked, weighed and condition scored before they are even considered for plasma donation.”

Ms Thiemann said the donkeys are only considered if “they can tolerate blood collection” without being sedated because the charity want to take the plasma in an “ethical way”.

“‘ We think the process is as good as it can be,” she said.

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The charity spokesman said an 11-year-old donkey called Dusuy recently benefitted from the new plasma bank after he was identified as being in acute pain and tests revealed an inflamed colon.

“He was hospitalised with colitis and further tests suggested he needed an urgent transfusion to raise protein levels. After receiving plasma from a healthy donkey at the charity’s flagship hospital at Brookfield Farm near Honiton, Dusuy was able to spend time recovering with two close companions,” he said.

“Dusuy will still need additional treatment, but it’s the plasma that is really life-saving. What’s rewarding for us is that our donkeys are able to give back and help save others in our sanctuaries,” added Ms Thiemann.

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