Five-year-old Bear's story highlights the importance of canine blood donors

A dog left just hours from death after eating rat poison was saved thanks to an urgent blood plasma transfusion.

Owner Martina Eyre-Brooke, herself a vet, knew every minute mattered and made a late-night dash to the Vets Now clinic in Swindon with five-year-old Bear.

And the high-tech equipment, crucial on-hand plasma stock and the skill of the staff saved the life of the loveable Labrador.

Martina lives on a working farm with livestock near Faringdon, Oxfordshire. As a Red Tractor-assured farm, rodent control is part of rigorous standards and Martina thinks Bear got to some of the rat bait.

“We always keep it locked away in a store and are so careful with it, but he must have eaten some while my back was turned,” said Martina, who owns a practice in Cirencester.

“The poison has a very slow release, and he didn’t show any symptoms at all until I noticed he didn’t eat his breakfast two weeks later. He was pale and his breathing was a bit laboured, so I took him into the practice with me just to keep an eye on him and do some tests.

“The results weren’t too bad at the time, but he deteriorated drastically during the day, and he started bleeding really heavily, including into his chest.

“It was really horrible, I needed a specialist test to confirm my suspicion that it was rat poison but didn’t have the machine.”

Labrador and Dachshund on farm
Bear's owner Martina, herself a vet, knew every minute mattered and made a late-night dash to Vets Now in Swindon.

Martina knew the only place that would have it nearby was the Vets Now clinic in Swindon. It’s one of more than 60 clinics and hospitals across the UK that are open seven days a week for out-of-hours pet emergencies.

She rushed him there late in the evening and the staff were able to use their equipment to confirm Martina’s fears.

“The only way to save his life was to replenish his body’s clotting factors,” said Martina. “It was so advanced there wasn’t time to give him something to help him do it naturally, he needed a transfusion of plasma.

“I actually had another dog saved by a transfusion at Vets Now three years ago. It was a puppy from a puppy farm and nearly died of parvovirus.

With Bear, there was no time to waste. If Vets Now didn’t have plasma in stock, he would have died.

Fortunately, the Swindon clinic did have a supply on-hand thanks to the charity Pet Blood Bank. It runs donation sessions across the country where owners can bring their dogs to give blood which is then separated into lifesaving products for vets.

Martina found herself looking on as an anxious pet owner, rather than a vet, as the team worked on Bear. But the transfusion was a success and by the following morning, his clotting factors were back to normal.

Remarkably, he quickly recovered within five days and was able to go for walks on the farm again.

“Obviously I see a lot of sick animals but it’s different when it’s your own dog,” said Martina. “When I went along to get Bear in the morning and saw him come out with his tail wagging, I just burst into tears.

“I’m so grateful to the team at Vets Now and for them having the plasma there to save him.”

labrador close-up shot
"Thousands of dogs need blood transfusions every year and therefore having access to blood 24/7, 365 days a year is critical for the veterinary profession."

District vet Kate Russell, who oversees several Vets Now clinics in southern England, including Swindon, said: “The team in Swindon are delighted to hear Bear is on the mend.

“At Vets Now, we’re hugely proud of our long-standing partnership with Pet Blood Bank, and Bear’s case shows just how important that partnership is.”

All of Vets Now’s premises always have a vet and vet nurse on site.

We also offer an online video consultation service to make professional veterinary advice more easily available. While the service is not suitable for life-threatening emergencies, our experienced vets are available to discuss any worries or concerns you might have.

If your pet needs an in-person follow-up appointment at any vet practice, Vets Now will refund the online consultation fee, so you never pay twice.