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About cat blood transfusions

Will my cat be unwell after a donation?

Donor animals should be checked by a veterinary surgeon that they are fit and healthy enough before making a blood donation. Signs of low blood pressure (pale gums, rapid heart rate, poor pulses) may be seen after donation in cats, so supplementary fluid replacement is often given to the donor at the time of collection. There is no evidence of significant long term health problems in feline donors.

Will I be paid for my cat being a donor?

Traditionally, donations are made without payment although, sometimes, a gesture of goodwill may be offered by the veterinary practice taking the blood. This is not something or the Animal Blood Register can oversee and is a matter for the owner of the donor and the practice.

How might a transfusion be used?

Blood transfusions have many uses and can be critical, life-saving procedures. Blood loss through injury e.g. road traffic accidents or other causes of bleeding, such as rodenticide (warfarin) poisoning can lead to death or make any anaesthesia to treat underlying damage very risky. In these circumstances, fresh whole blood can make all the difference!

Sometimes, an animal’s immune system can attack its own red blood cells (immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia), and blood transfusions are necessary to prevent fatal anaemia whilst medical treatment is working.
As well as fresh blood, in some circumstances, whole blood can be stored for anticipated usage or even divided into component parts. In the latter case, one donation can help two or three patients!

Cat Blood types and Cross-matching

The main blood group system in cats is the A-B grouping. Cats can be either type A, type B or type AB. Unlike dogs, and similar to humans, type A cats automatically react to type B blood and vice-versa. The rare AB blood group cats can receive blood from either type A or type B donors. Reactions can be serious. Type A blood can cause a fatal reaction in type B recipients and, although the B blood type is rare in non-pedigree cats, because of the potential for serious reactions, untyped blood transfusions are not recommended in cats.

As well as typing donor and recipient, cross-matches can be performed to confirm compatibility, and are recommended where the recipient has had a previous transfusion. This test involves incubating donor and recipient serum and red blood cells and looking for a reaction outside of the body that indicates an increased risk of a reaction inside the body if the transfusion is given.

What is an ideal cat blood donor?

An ideal blood donor is a friendly, healthy, clinically normal cat in good body condition, ideally 4.5 kg in weight or greater. Pregnant queens should not donate but previous pregnancy does not exclude donation. Donors should test negative for feline leukaemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus and should be at low risk of other blood borne infections or parasites.

How is blood obtained?

Sedation or anaesthesia is necessary to keep a cat sufficiently still to make a safe donation. Blood is obtained directly from a large vein in the neck using syringes pre-filled with anticoagulant and a direct venipuncture or ‘butterfly’ type catheter. Fluids are often administered before and during blood collection to minimise the effects of blood volume reduction.

How much blood is taken?

The recommended ‘draw’ for a feline blood donation is a volume of 11-13 ml/kg. This will typically mean a donation of a total of 60ml (including anticoagulant to stop the blood clotting).

How often can my cat give blood?

Repeated blood donations over a relatively short period of time can lead to anaemia, and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. For this reason, after a donation is made and recorded on the site, the donor will be blocked from being called via the registry for three months.