When Ms Allison De Cruz was told last September that her nine-year- old cocker spaniel Sasha might die without a blood transfusion, she called a long-time friend who also owned a dog.
Four-year-old golden retriever Lance was taken to the vet's clinic to act as Sasha's donor - and save its life. The heroic hound has now become the first name on the first official blood donor registry for dogs and cats.
It will be launched by Mount Pleasant Veterinary Group, Singapore's largest veterinary chain, on Saturday, the second day of the Pet Expo.
Owners will be able to sign up at the event at the Singapore Expo.
Dr Samantha Fong, of the Mount Pleasant Vet Centre (Gelenggang), which performs an average of four transfusions a month, said of Sasha's case: "It was fortunate that the two owners knew each other. In most other cases, the ailing pet's owner, who is already traumatised by the condition of his pet, has to look for sources of blood."
Donation process and requirements
CANINE BLOOD TYPES
While there are at least eight different canine blood groups, dogs are routinely typed for the presence of dog Eeythrocyte antigen (DEA) 1.1. Dogs that are DEA 1.1 negative are considered universal donors while those that are DEA 1.1 positive are considered universal recipients.
FELINE BLOOD TYPES
There are three major feline blood groups: A, B and AB. Type A is the most common, and there are no universal donors or recipients.
IDEAL DONORS MUST:
• Be one to eight years old
• Weigh over 20kg for dogs or 5kg for cats
• Never have been pregnant
• Be up to date with vaccinations
• Be on heartworm preventive and tick/flea control medication
• Have no history of receiving blood transfusions
• Not take any medication that could pose a problem for the recipient
• Have a good temperament and health
• Be able to tolerate collection of blood from a vein and restraint
After clearing a physical examination and blood tests, donors may be sedated for blood collection, depending on temperament.
A small area of fur is shaved from the neck, and the area is aseptically cleaned.
Blood is collected via the jugular vein with a sterile needle and single-use collection bag. Up to 450ml of blood will be collected from dogs and 55ml from cats.
There may be bruising on the neck which should fade over a few days.
The entire procedure will take about one to two hours.
Blood can be donated every two to three months.
The registry will begin on April 1 and give clients a list of donors when their dog or cat requires a blood transfusion.
While many clinics have an informal pool of donors to draw from, this will be the first official registry. Potential donors will be recorded in a database. Should a dog or cat need blood, the clinic will contact the potential donor's owner and tell them to take their pet to the clinic for free pre-donation tests.
As an added incentive, $100 will be credited to the owner's clinic account following each donation.
Four of Mount Pleasant's nine clinics have blood typing facilities, and will be participating in the programme - its Gelenggang, North, Clementi and Whitley branches.
Singapore Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) acting executive director Jaipal Singh Gill said: "The launch of this registry is a positive development for pets in Singapore. Blood can be very important for saving lives and without a transfusion, in certain cases, the animal may not survive. "
Dr Fong said the company hopes to have 20 donors per participating clinic by the end of the year.
Blood transfusions buy time for medicine to kick in when an animal is critically ill, she said, with the most severe cases requiring a transfusion within 24 hours.
Speaking about a friend whose dog recently died when a donor could not be found in time, Ms De Cruz, 32, said: "It's very sad, because if there was a registry maybe someone could have been contacted and gone down in time.
"When it happens to you, you're faced with the feeling that your dog is going to die."