Many of us donate blood to help people in need, but what happens when a donkey needs a donor? A select few at The Donkey Sanctuary have recently started giving plasma to support their poorly friends.

In the past, when plasma was required to treat a sick donkey, our team would have to buy in frozen bags. At a cost of over £100 each, these were putting significant pressure on precious donation funds.

Thanks to a new blood donation scheme however, donkeys treated at our specialist donkey hospital are now able to benefit from blood donated by their peers.

Taking an ethical approach

So how do we make sure the right donkeys are giving blood? Donors are carefully selected using guidelines approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

“We spent a lot of time in discussion with the RCVS and we have together set up some ethical guidelines,” said Alex Thiemann, Senior Veterinary Surgeon.

“The donkeys who participate have to be ones who are the right age and in good condition; they are health-checked, weighed and measured before they can be considered.”

Farthing enjoys treats while donating blood
A needle is inserted to take blood
Farthing with his groom
Much like the tea and biscuits you may be offered when giving blood, a bucket of feed and a tasty treat is an important part of the process for willing participants like Farthing.

You may be wondering what the donkeys make of this innovation. Alex explains how we make sure donor donkeys are not negatively impacted.

“The donkeys also have to be able to tolerate blood samples happily, without being sedated,” she said.

“They are assessed when they are giving blood, and if they don’t like it, the process will be stopped and the donkeys taken off the programme. We think the process is as good as it can be.”

Plasma in action

Dusuy, who was hospitalised with colitis, is just one of the donkeys who has benefitted from the new scheme.

Our vets carefully monitor pain behaviour and facial expressions are assessed to measure how much pain a donkey is in.

Dusuy’s condition had caused his colon to become painfully inflamed and further testing revealed that he needed an urgent transfusion to raise his protein levels.

Dusuy recovering at the hospital
Dusuy and Tommy
Swinford the mule
After receiving a transfusion of protein-packed plasma, Dusuy was able to spend time recovering alongside his friends, Tommy and Swinford.

“Dusuy still needed a lot of other treatment by stomach tube and injection, but it’s the plasma that is really life-saving,” adds Alex.

“What’s nice is that it’s like one of our donkeys has given something back to help save another one.”

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