Meet our February Patient of the Month – Blue the Cat
Unlike our previous patients of the month, Blue has had no illnesses. He is a completely healthy 1 year old indoor cat. So you may wonder why we are featuring him this month!
He has a super power – he is a blood donor!
Cats may require a blood transfusion due to several diseases like D-con rat poison ingestion, blood loss from trauma, immune system destruction of red blood cells or blood parasites.
There are a few blood banks that offer feline blood to the US. Unfortunately, feline blood can only be stored for 1 month and feline blood transfusions are fairly uncommon. This makes local blood donors ideal because the blood can be obtained as needed. The ideal donor cat is strictly indoors, is 1-8 years old and good tempered. Blue is a whopping 17# (although his mom admits he is 1-2# overweight), strictly indoors & quite mellow. He must stay current on his vaccines, have bi-annual healthy physical exams along with routine annual blood tests. Blue has been screened and has tested negative for viruses like leukemia and FIV and also infectious diseases like Anaplasma, Mycoplasma and Bartonella, just to name a few. His blood type was also tested – he is type A.
Cats have 3 blood types – A, B and AB. 99% of domestic cats in the US are blood type A. Pure bred cats have a 10-50% chance of having blood type B. These breeds include Persian, Himalayan, Birman, Devon Rex and British Shorthairs to name a few. Blood type AB is extremely rare. Type B cats that receive type A blood will show rapid and often fatal reactions. Any cat that receives Blue’s blood must also be blood type A. Blood type is determined with blood typing “cards” we have in-clinic. The picture below shows a blood typing card.
Another test that is performed before the blood transfusion occurs is a cross-match. A cross-match test uses blood from the donor and recipient. It makes sure that the recipient does not have antibodies that would destroy the donor’s red blood cells, which could cause a reaction for the recipient. This test is also performed in-clinic.
Once these tests are performed and Blue is deemed a compatible blood donor for a recipient cat, Blue is sedated to allow easy, stress-free collection of his blood. Fur over his neck is clipped and an antiseptic solution cleans his skin. Cats can donate 10-20% of their blood volume safely, which is based on their ideal body weight. At his weight, Blue can donate about 85 mL of blood. The blood collection takes about 10-15 minutes. He receives oxygen and his heart rate and oxygen levels in his blood are monitored while he is sedated. Once his sedative is reversed, he wakes up and goes home. Then he dines on a meal of canned food.
An anti-coagulant is placed in the syringes prior to collection of the blood. This prevents blood from clotting. Since the blood is going to be used immediately, the blood from the syringes is injected into a sterile empty bag. A special IV line and filter is attached to administer the blood to the recipient. This filter collects any microscopic clots that could harm the recipient.
The new red blood cells should live 1-2 months in the blood stream of the recipient cat, which usually allows time for treatment of their underlying condition. Blue receives a small monetary stipend for his donation, which he uses to buy his food and an occasional bag of cat-nip and Greenies.