A topic that I would like to talk about in this article is that of pets and tissue transplants. I have been immersed in the transplant world since 1996 when my mother had a heart and double-lung transplant. She is still with us today and is fast approaching her 17th transplant birthday; thus, I am obviously very pro-transplants and try to encourage more people to sign up as a donor. However, when it comes to my dog I am not so sure whether I would like him to be a registered donor.
I have talked about the VTB (Veterinary Tissue Bank) in an article before so I will not go into too much detail about it. To put it simply, owners can sign up their pets as donors so that when they pass away their tissue can be used to help living pets. The animals in need may have suffered injuries or need an operation on their ligaments, tendons or bones. Once a pet owner has registered their cat or dog as a donor 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.
I can see how 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 in need of tissue. 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.
My own personal view on this topic is mixed. On the one hand I feel that by registering Archie I will be safe in the knowledge that when he passes away he’ll be helping another person’s pet to live, walk or even improve their eyesight. Surely selflessly helping another animal in need is the right thing to do? If I was to bury Archie rather than allow his body to be put to good use in helping another dog and thus, another family, would I not feel guilty? Just the other day I read a story about how (through the pet donor card scheme) a young cat named Burt had a bone tissue transplant that enabled him to walk again.
However, a grey area for me personally with registering pets as tissue donors is that they cannot communicate what their wishes are. With the human donor system it is all based upon a person’s own individual choice. Would it be fair of me to choose for Archie without him, as daft as this sounds, having a say in the matter? I feel that the same questions and apprehensions could be raised by many other pet owners.
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.
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.