Feline transfusion is heavily reliant on volunteer cat blood donors due to the scarcity of blood products for cats available from the animal blood banks. The need for transfusion can arise at any time, which means that our volunteers need to be readily available during work hours, evenings and nights. With some of our donors living some distance from the hospital, arranging a donation is not an easy task.
To complicate things further, the donor cat’s blood must be the same type as the recipients. There are three major feline blood types, type A, B, and AB. Type A is most common in domestic cats in the UK. Type B is seen predominantly in some pure breeds such as Birman, British Shorthair and Devon Rex cats, and Type AB is very rare. Our feline donor list includes a total of 21 cats, only four of which are blood type B.
The other option of providing blood transfusions in our feline patients, is by utilising the cats from our clients. Ideally these should be cats from the same or known household as the recipient.
Cats that are suitable as donors would have to tick the below criteria:
• 1-8 years old and weighing > 4kg
• Fully vaccinated
• Up to date on their flea and worming treatments
• Healthy and not on any medication
• Not pregnant
• Good temperament is desirable
• Not donated blood in the last three months
• Not received a transfusion previously.
Prior to collection of blood, the health status of our donors is checked via thorough physical examination, blood analysis and testing for FIV and FeLV. We also check the blood type of all donors to ensure it is compatible with the recipient. Regular blood donors should also be screened for Haemoplasma infection but, since this test requires an external lab, this cannot be done in the emergency situation.
For the donation, we place an intravenous canula into one of the legs to ensure that we can safely and quickly administer the sedative that will allow the cat to relax. After the cat is lightly sedated, a small area on the neck at the level of the jugular vein is clipped, cleaned and disinfected. The nurse collecting the blood from the jugular vein must wear sterile gloves and handle the collection equipment in an aseptic manner. The amount of collected blood is calculated based on the body weight of the donor, but never exceeds 20% of the total blood volume of the donor. Once the donation is complete, the cat is recovered from the sedation and moved to our dedicated feline ward where they receive intravenous fluid therapy. Our donors are monitored closely during their recovery period and go home with a thank you goodie bag and a certificate.
Undergoing a feline blood donation involves a minimal risk on the donor’s part associated with sedation required for the collection of blood, stress of the hospital and the blood loss. To ensure the safety of our donors, we have set out specific requirements that we follow, which ensure safety and wellbeing of our donors.
Our donor cats and their owners are absolutely wonderful and have helped save the lives of many cats.