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Did you know that your cat can receive a blood transfusion?

Blood transfusion is a common medical procedure in which donated blood is used to replace blood lost through injury, surgery, or accident. And while this procedure is not performed as routinely in treating domestic cats (as it is with people) it can save lives for our furry companions.

Donor availability has been a limitation in veterinary practice, but with the growth of blood banks (which provide greater access to feline blood) it is possible that this procedure will become more common over the years.

Blood collection process

To address this need, the International Society for Feline Medicine (ISFM) has developed a guide that addresses important process considerations. The authors of this document are veterinarians with experience in infectious diseases, anesthesia, intensive care, and medicine. In addition, they have experience in drawing blood.

As they argue, blood is a very valuable resource that is collected for the benefit of one cat (the recipient), without benefit for the other (the donor). Therefore, a basic principle of the ISFM is that the veterinarian has the responsibility to take proper care of both parties.

On the other hand, the vet will have to find out if that feline really needs blood and, after making the decision, make sure that it is compatible with that of the cat. Cats can have type A, B, or AB blood.

Type A is the most common phenotype worldwide, and Siamese cats, for example, are believed to be exclusively type A. Type B has a much lower prevalence, although it can be found among non-pedigree cats and also among British shorthair cats. The type AB, on the other hand, is quite strange.

One of the biggest challenges of cat blood transfusion is that there are also risks to the donor, especially from sedation and venipuncture. However, careful technique can reduce these risks. Likewise, at an ethical level cats cannot be considered ‘donors’, since they do not have the capacity to decide and, therefore, cannot give their consent. For this reason, the term ‘collection’ of blood is often used instead of donation.

However, the veterinarian must assess the clinical benefit for the recipient cat, the suitability of the donor cat, the well-being of both, and the ethical justification of the procedure. The goal of this is to facilitate the process and ensure that the health and well-being of recipient and donor cats are given equal priority.

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