Merlin’s own blood cells salvaged for life-saving transfusion

A Great Dane’s life was saved with the help of a ground-breaking treatment at our pet emergency hospital in Glasgow.

Four-year-old Merlin, who weighs a whopping 10 stone, was losing blood because of a life-threatening twist in his intestine.

Getting sufficient donor supplies for such a large dog can be challenging as well as hugely expensive, so our veterinary team used a procedure called cell salvage, which effectively recycles the dog’s own blood.

An image of Merlin, the Great Dane treated at Vets Now for an internal bleed. In this image, Merlin is sitting on top of a sofa with one of his favourite toys and looking at the camera. Image for Vets Now article on Great Dane saved by blood recycling.
Four-year-old Merlin was rapidly losing blood due to a life-threatening twist in his intestine

In Merlin’s case, blood that had leaked into his abdomen was recovered, before being washed and filtered in the cell salvage machine, and then returned it to him by way of transfusion.

Merlin’s owner, Graeme McClain, of Saltcoats, North Ayrshire, praised the hospital staff for saving his dog’s life and said he feared he would lose Merlin as his condition worsened.

He explained: “Merlin had an operation at our local vets after they discovered his intestine had gone up and attached itself above his stomach meaning they needed to put it back to where it should be.

“Afterwards, he went into Vets Now for routine post-operative care and overnight observation, but the vet said his heart rate was elevated due to an internal bleed so he had to go into emergency surgery.

An image of Merlin the Great Dane saved by Vets Now playing in his garden with a toy panda. Image for Vets Now article on Great Dane saved by blood recycling
Merlin needed a huge amount of blood to survive

“There was a high risk of losing him at that point. Two operations back to back and being knocked out twice with general anaesthetic is not good for any dog.”

Our vets discovered Merlin had lost three litres of blood. But they used the hospital’s newly-acquired cell salvage machine to recover this from his abdomen. It was the first time the procedure had been carried out in the hospital.

Cell salvage is recommended in cases involving significant blood loss, especially when adequate blood products are not readily available. It has been proven to be a safe and effective way for vets to manage haemorrhage.

Sheila McLellan, an emergency and critical care veterinary nurse at Vets Now Glasgow, explained how the new equipment had proven to be a lifesaver.

She said: “Due to Merlin’s size – Great Danes are about 70kg – we knew we wouldn’t have enough blood to replace what he was losing so we used our cell salvage machine for the first time.

“Merlin is such a splendid looking dog and really something of a gentle giant. We're so glad we were able to save his life.”

Sheila McLellan ECC Veterinary Nurse

“This allowed us to take Merlin’s blood from his abdomen and feed it into the machine which essentially washed and filtered the blood, allowing our emergency vets to give it straight back to him.

“Merlin is such a splendid looking dog and really something of a gentle giant. We’re so glad we were able to save his life.”

Owner Graeme was also impressed with the new treatment, adding: “It seems an extremely clever way of re-using the dog’s own fluids and something I had never heard of – it sounds like a great breakthrough.”

Graeme’s family have always had Great Danes which he says make great family pets.

“They are really good natured dogs. They are placid, laid back and good with children as well as being a stunning dog to look at too. They are just big gentle giants,” he said, adding that he and his partner, Charlotte, couldn’t thank “Vets Now enough for everything they did to save our pooch.”

An image of Merling the great dane saved by blood recycling for Vets Now article on Dog blood transfusion
The cell salvage technique collected the blood from Merlin's abdomen and transfused it back into his body

The Vets Now hospital in Glasgow, which is currently undergoing a £1.5 million extension and refurbishment, is Scotland’s first dedicated 24/7 pet emergency service.

It operates as a pet A&E department with a team of dedicated specialist, referral and emergency vets and vet nurses on hand to provide care.

It’s one of 60 Vets Now clinics and pet emergency hospitals across the UK that are open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.

All of Vets Now’s premises have a vet and vet nurse on site at all times.