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'Stars all lined up perfectly': Edmonton wildlife rescue performs rare porcupine blood transfusion


Officials at a wildlife rescue and a rehabilitation centre in Edmonton believe they've performed the first successful porcupine blood transfusion in North America.

Several months ago, two injured female porcupines came into WILDNorth's care for different reasons. The larger one was attacked by a dog while the smaller one was described as "lethargic."

"We came to the conclusion that the smaller of the two porcupines was very, very ill, actually on its deathbed and the only way to save its life was to perform a blood transfusion," said Dale Gienow, executive director of WILDNorth.

Once the larger porcupine was stabilized and healed from its wounds, it became the donor for the smaller porcupine. The transfusion happened two weeks ago.

"We’re seeing her come full circle, a complete 180 [degrees]. She's now active, she's starting to climb, she's eating well on her own, all those things, so we’re very optimistic about her," Gienow said.

On Monday, the larger porcupine was released back into the wild where it was originally found, a full circle moment for Gienow who initially rescued it.

"It was a difficult rescue, this one's got a lot of attitude. She’s got lots of perseverance but now that it’s healed up again, we're excited to get her back into the wild where it belongs," he said.


Daren Mandrusiak with the Harvest Pointe Animal Hospital said to his knowledge, a blood transfusion between porcupines hasn’t been published in a medical journal or done before for several reasons.

"To find an individual porcupine who needs a blood transfusion is already rare enough, then to find one where you actually have a healthy blood donor like that is exceedingly rare," Mandrusiak told CTV News Edmonton.

Mandrusiak says the blood transfusion wouldn’t impact the larger porcupine's health and its opportunity of being released back where it was found.

Staff at Harvest Pointe Animal Hospital perform a blood transfusion on a porcupine. (Credit: WILDNorth)

"The stars all lined up perfectly to allow this to happen for this little porcupine."

Mandrusiak says blood transfusions for animals are quite common but not in wildlife medicine because it can take a lot of resources, specific training and a donor which isn’t easy to come by.

There currently isn’t any information or research on blood physiology in porcupines, according to Mandrusiak.

Prior to the transfusion, cross matching was done to see if there would be any transfusion reaction as several things could go wrong.

"We could not be able to collect blood on the big porcupine … they have to be sedated. Getting such a large volume without having it clot is quite difficult," Mandrusiak said.

Gienow said the smaller porcupine will be staying in WILDNorth’s care for the next couple of weeks to monitor her health before they release her.

The rescue centre along with Harvest Pointe Animal Hospital plans to publish their work to a wildlife medical journal so the work is out there for others.

"Whether I’ll have a chance to do it again? Probably not. But I hope so, and if the opportunity ever comes I’ll know that it’s possible," Mandrusiak said. Top Stories

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