‘Red Paw’ – First Czech blood bank registry for dogs

Photo: Klára Bezděčková

In the Czech Republic, as in many other countries, veterinarians have long faced the same problem: a shortage of dog blood, necessary in case of urgent transfusions. To address the issue, a group of volunteers founded Red Paw (Červená tlapka), the country’s first such registry. Since its May launch, they have already registered more than 400 potential dog donors.

Photo: Eliška Vybíralová

Among the first to register their pet for the new blood bank is Veronika Školoudíková, whose Great Dane, named Rocky, weighs in at a hefty 80 kilos, and has already given blood three times.

“I got a phone call from our vet. She had a female Dachshund on the operating table, which had been hit by a car. A transfusion was necessary. The vet needed blood within half an hour or at most an hour."

The situation she describes is all too common: since canine blood is difficult to preserve, it’s essential to have a register of pet owners ready to bring their dogs in on incredibly short notice.

Photo: Tereza Šnajdrová
Complicating matters further, not every dog is an ideal donor.

Just as there’s a 'universal blood type' for human beings – type O negative – there’s a canine one as well, type DEA 4. In an emergency situation, where every second counts, vets don’t have time to do cross-match testing. For an initial transfusion, though, any type will do.

Red Paw volunteer Alžběta Ruschková, a professional translator, explained to Radio Prague’s French section how the group came into being.

“It was my friend’s idea. Her own dog died because a blood donor could not be found quickly.

“The logic behind the registry is to connect owners of potential donors with those in need. We’re creating an online registry so that when a dog needs a transfusion, their owner can easily find a donor nearby, based on the postal code.

“We respect people’s privacy – the owners’ contacts details aren’t listed directly on the site. Only the data concerning the donor dogs is shown. But owners can communicate through the site, and arrange a blood transfusion at the veterinarian of their choice.”

The potential database is huge – Czechs are among the greatest dog lovers in the world, with nearly 43 percent of households having at least one four-legged friend of the canine persuasion.

The number of dogs registered as pets in the Czech capital stood at 83,297 last year, up a couple thousands compared to 2017 but down from a record high of 100,544 the year before. Yorkshire Terriers and Dachshunds are the most popular breeds, followed by Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds.

To be eligible as a donor – like Rocky – the dog must be in good health, aged between 2-8 years old, and weigh in at more than 20 kilos. But there are other ways to help the non-profit group, says Alžběta Ruschková.

“People who don’t have a dog that is a suitable donor can still help us. They can distribute posters and brochures, and tell their vets about our initiative. They can also help us financially, although our goal is not to collect money. It’s a non-profit initiative, an activity we do in our free time to save sick dogs.”