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‘British cats and dogs to get donor cards by 2016’
First successful cat open-heart op sets new pace

Following the success of the world’s first successful cat open-heart surgery in the UK, new figures show that the majority of the nation’s 14 million pets could have their own organ donor cards by 2016.

An overwhelming 82% of pet owners would consider letting their dog or cat’s organs be donated to someone else’s pet, 78% would like to see other pet owners carrying donor cards, and 84% would be grateful for their cat or dog to receive an organ from a donor animal to save its life.

The UK’s No 1 pet insurance provider, Petplan, suggests these figures indicate the proportion of pets with donor cards could outstrip humans with donor cards by 2016. Currently only 20% of the UK population are signed up to the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Petplan suggest that pet donor cards could reach these proportions due to the increasing awareness of the advancements in veterinary medicine and the fact that the survey results show more than 7 out of 10 pet owners would now consider this as an option.

Dr Scott Miller, practising vet and regular contributor to ITV1's This Morning & The Paul O'Grady Show comments:

"It’s well known that veterinary techniques are becoming more sophisticated, and cats and dogs could benefit from the advent of pioneering surgery such as heart and liver transplants.

"The Petplan research is a good indication that the nation’s pet owners are becoming more aware that their pets can be saved thanks to medical and surgical advancements across the board."

Dr Scott Miller continues: "However, this will mark a sea-change in the way pets receive and donate organs, and these new research predictions highlight key issues such as ‘do pet owners have the right to sign away their pets organs’, and the importance of insuring pets for life in the face of such advanced, and expensive surgery."

Petplan, the UK’s No 1 pet insurance provider would welcome a debate with The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), and other organisations such as the RSPCA, following the success of cat kidney transplant operations in e.g. Australia.

Fiona Pinkney from Petplan comments:

"As the leading pet insurance provider in the UK, we’re constantly looking for ways to help our policy holders, and our initial research has shown that pet donor cards could be a potentially viable option. With the advent of increased veterinary technology, and ground breaking operations, it’s clear that pets could enjoy the same standard of healthcare that humans do.

However, without the support of an equivalent NHS, pet owners should carefully consider how to cover the potential costs of operations in the future."

Pinkney continues: "If you consider that one in three insured pet owners make a claim on their policy to the tune of £150m a year, that could potentially increase to £425million in the next ten years due to the advance in surgery techniques. It’s key therefore that pet owners look for the right life cover for their pet that will pay for these sorts of life-saving operations."

It is also important for pet owners to consider the significant welfare implications that would be associated with the pet receiving the transplant. The quality and longevity of the pet’s life post transplant would need to be given serious consideration."

It’s important to note that not all insurance policies will cover the cost of transplants, and those policies that do may be subject to an increased premium. In some cases, specialist policies will be required, or an ‘add on’ may be necessary, especially concerning the donor animal surgery as this will also involve an additional cost.

How does it work?

Matching organs in cats and dogs is based predominantly on the right blood type. Dogs have thirteen different types of blood, while cats have merely three blood types. Sizing is also a consideration for dog breeds.

Petplan, the UK’s No 1 pet insurance provider, believes that this could potentially be a better option than using live donors which has happened in the US.