Blood brothers: Equine charity creates its own plasma bank

Farthing gets an edible reward while he donates blood to the charity's plasma bank.
Farthing gets an edible reward while he donates blood to the charity’s plasma bank. © The Donkey Sanctuary

A British based equine charity has introduced a blood transfusion scheme using plasma from its own herd to treat sick peers.

The new scheme donor scheme was developed at The Donkey Sanctuary’s specialist hospital near its headquarters in Devon.

The charity had been buying in bags of frozen plasma at a cost of more than £100 each and was keen to find an alternative.

Alex Thiemann, a Senior Veterinary Surgeon at the charity, said much time was spent discussing procedures and the value of a plasma bank with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons 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,” she said.

“The donkeys themselves are also only considered if they can tolerate the blood collection without being sedated because we want to take plasma in an ethical way,” Thiemann said. “The donkeys are continually assessed and if they show any signs of stress they are taken off the programme. We think the process is as good as it can be.”

Dusuy was recently a recipient of the new plasma bank.
Dusuy was recently a recipient of the new plasma bank. © The Donkey Sanctuary

One resident male donkey called Dusuy recently benefitted directly and quickly from the charity’s new plasma bank. Eleven-year-old Dusuy 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.

“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,” Thiemann said.

The Donkey Sanctuary, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is a global leader for equine welfare, research and veterinary care working in almost 40 countries worldwide.

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