BENGALURU: In the last six months, cases of canine distemper have grown exponentially. With no proper treatment available to cure the disease, blood donation by canine distemper survivors can be of great help, say animal activists and vets.
A small quanity of blood from the survivor is extracted, converted into serum and then injected into the patient. “The survivor's blood is rich in antibodies. This helps the body to fight the disease,” says veterinarian Dr Lohith H D. The success rate of this treatment method is 50 per cent. “Fifty per cent is a good number for such cases,” says Dr Lohith, adding, “The survivors who donate blood should be completely healthy and should not show signs of clinical symptoms.”
The three survivors at Charlie’s Animal Rescue Centre (CARE) have saved about 200 dogs so far, claims Sudha Narayanan who runs the centre. “Yami, a five-year-old Indie has been the pioneer in the blood donation drive. She has so far saved around 150 dogs,” says Sudha.
Yami, Bosky and Danny are rescued dogs. “Yami was abandoned two years ago. Bosky was found house arrested along with other pets for a week by his alcoholic owner and Danny was found on streets suffering from acute canine distemper. They were not vaccinated. They fought the disease and survived it,” adds Sudha.
They now regularly donate blood to victims. The disease is not completely curable in most cases. There are post-treatment side-effects. “The three have a twitching problem, but that is not visible. You see them twitching only when they lie down to relax,” she says.
The survivors donate two mililitres of blood to create serum. “It's not a lot of blood, so they can donate quite often, say once in 48 hours. The victim needs about two to three doses of these antibodies every day,” says Dr Lohith. There are two ways to produce serum, says the vet.
“One is the newcastle disease vaccine where the serum is injected into a healthy dog and harvested after 24 hours. It is then injected into the brain or the nerve root. The other method is direct donation by the survivor.”
The donation is made only at the initial stages of the disease. “There are controversies about this method. Some argue that it does not benefit the dog at all. But the blood donation does no harm. There are no side-effects,” concludes Dr Lohith.