With the rapidly increasing advancements in medical science, it was only a matter of time before the technique of transplanting tissues between animals was implemented. In 2009, veterinary surgeons Professor John Innes and Dr Peter Myint started the VTB (Veterinary Tissue Bank) in a response to the growing demand for cats and dogs that were in need of a tissue transplant. The lack of any kind of structure or a donor scheme encouraged the two veterinarians to take matters into their own hands.
The goal of the VTB is to improve the quality of life for pets by providing tissue allografts for veterinary surgeons to use. Donations of tissues from deceased pets can help other pets who have suffered injuries or need an operation on their bones, tendons, ligaments and even eyes. The scheme is coordinated nationally so that the donated tissues can be supplied to vets across the U.K and that way, be of best use to cats and dogs in need.
Signing up to the U.K Pet Donor Register is a simple process and it means that pet owners can receive solace in the knowledge that their recently deceased companion will be helping another person’s companion to live, be able to walk or even improve eyesight. Once a pet owner has signed up, the register will then contact that person’s veterinary surgeon to inform them. That way, when the unfortunate time comes, the vet will know to have the discussion with the bereaved pet owners.
The process of donating a pet’s tissues for transplants has both positive and negative impacts. From one view point, it shows empathy and demonstrates that the pet owner cares about other animals and how their owners are feeling. It is completely ethical and helps cats and dogs that are needing of tissues. From another view point, it may be seen as unnatural and un-organic. Many people still don’t agree with transplants in humans, let alone animals. In addition, the costs for an owner whose pet is receiving the tissue graft can be extremely high, with one recent case costing the owner £6,000; this is because the process is privatised.
I have had quite a lot of experience within the transplant world as my mother had a heart and double-lung transplant in June 1996. She is still alive today and so I am very pro-transplants. During campaigns where I have helped to try and encourage more people to sign up as donor, I have come across a lot of opposed opinions (as outlined in the above paragraph) on the matter.
With regards to pet tissue transplants I feel that the same questions and apprehensions will be raised. If you are considering signing your pet up to the Pet Donor Register then please do talk to all other members of your family about it before making a decision; it is important to consider everyone’s opinion. It is also important to note that pets don’t have a voice and so the decision is entirely up to the owners. People may not allow their pets to be a tissue donor as the pet themselves cannot say whether or not they’d like to be a donor.
Experts are predicting that the transplantation of organs between animals will be mastered within the next 15 years. As the technological advancements continue to rapidly progress, the question has to be asked whether or not pet owner’s beliefs and values will adhere to this process on the whole?
What’re your thoughts on pet tissue transplants? Have you ever considered it? Has anyone already signed their pet up to be a donor? Let us know your thoughts on the matter in the comments box below.