India opens first blood bank for dogs

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Veterinarians in the southern city of Chennai are looking for donors after opening India's first blood bank for dogs.

Dr P. Thangaraju from Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University said 28 owners had already registered their dogs for donation and a black Labrador was the first through the doors when the facility opened on Monday.

"Our university has become the first university in Asia, after the US and UK, to start the blood bank," the vice chancellor said, adding that eight varieties of dog blood had been identified.

"We will need more donors to get blood in all eight varieties," he added.

Owning pets is a growing trend in India, but reserved exclusively for the middle classes and wealthy, who can afford animal food and veterinary bills.

Stray dogs are a common sight throughout India, feared by many because of the prevalence of rabies and viewed as a pest for their nocturnal barking.

Thangaraju said the university, which attends to nearly 200 dogs a day, needed the million-rupee (22,000-dollar) facility because lives were frequently lost for lack of blood.

Transfusions are needed during surgery to remove tumours, to treat dogs suffering from leukaemia, or after accidents - a frequent problem on India's treacherous roads.

Nation-wide, hospitals in India face a lack of human donors.

"Most government hospitals across India face shortage of blood despite there being a compulsory rule that family members or friends of the patient have to volunteer to donate blood after a blood transfusion," Dr R.K. Jha, a medical officer at a top hospital in New Delhi, told AFP.

Dogs aged between one and eight years old will be eligible to donate a maximum of four times a year at the centre in Chennai.