Cat Blood Transfusion

| Updated: October 19, 2023
Cat receives blood transfusion in a veterinary clinic

If you are a cat owner, you may have heard of the term “cat blood transfusion” or wondered if your cat ever needs one. A blood transfusion is a medical procedure that involves transferring blood or blood products from one animal (the donor) to another (the recipient). It can be a life-saving treatment for cats with severe blood loss, anemia, or certain diseases that affect the blood cells.

When Do Cats Need a Blood Transfusion?

There are many situations that may require a cat to receive a blood transfusion, such as:

  • Trauma or injury that causes heavy bleeding
  • Surgery or dental procedures that involve blood loss
  • Poisoning or toxicity that damages the red blood cells
  • Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), a condition where the cat’s immune system destroys its own red blood cells
  • Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), which can cause bone marrow suppression and anemia
  • Chronic kidney disease, which can lead to reduced production of erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates red blood cell formation
  • Cancer or chemotherapy, which can affect the bone marrow and blood cells

Cat Blood Types

Just like humans, cats have different blood types that are determined by the presence or absence of certain antigens on the surface of their red blood cells. There are three major blood types in cats: A, B, and AB. Type A is the most common, followed by type B and type AB. The distribution of these blood types varies by breed and geographic region.

It is very important to know the blood type of both the donor and the recipient cat before performing a blood transfusion. This is because cats have naturally occurring antibodies against the other blood types in their plasma. If a cat receives blood from an incompatible donor, it can cause a severe transfusion reaction that can be fatal. Therefore, cats should only receive blood from cats of the same blood type or from universal donors.

Universal donors are cats that have type AB blood, which means they do not have any antigens on their red blood cells. They can donate blood to any cat without causing a reaction. However, universal donors are very rare and make up less than 1% of the cat population.

How Much Does a Cat Blood Transfusion Cost?

The cost of a cat blood transfusion depends on several factors, such as:

  • The availability and source of the donor blood
  • The amount and type of blood products needed
  • The location and type of the veterinary clinic or hospital
  • The complexity and duration of the procedure
  • The need for additional tests, medications, or treatments

According to some estimates, the average cost of a cat blood transfusion ranges from $600 to $2200 in the United States. However, this may vary widely depending on the specific circumstances and location.

Risks With Transfusion

Although a blood transfusion can be a life-saving treatment for cats, it is not without risks. Some of the potential complications and side effects include:

  • Transfusion reaction: This occurs when the recipient cat’s immune system recognizes the donor blood as foreign and attacks it. This can cause fever, vomiting, diarrhea, shock, kidney failure, or death. Transfusion reactions can be acute (within minutes to hours) or delayed (within days to weeks). They can be prevented by matching the blood types and cross-matching the donor and recipient blood before transfusion.
  • Infection: This occurs when the donor blood is contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi. This can cause sepsis, hepatitis, leukemia, immunodeficiency, or other diseases. Infection can be prevented by screening the donor cats for infectious diseases and using sterile techniques during collection and transfusion.
  • Volume overload: This occurs when the recipient cat receives too much fluid or blood products in a short period of time. This can cause heart failure, pulmonary edema, or fluid accumulation in other organs. Volume overload can be prevented by monitoring the vital signs and urine output of the recipient cat and adjusting the infusion rate accordingly.
  • Iron overload: This occurs when the recipient cat receives repeated or large amounts of red blood cells over time. This can cause excess iron accumulation in the liver, heart, pancreas, or other organs. Iron overload can be prevented by using other types of blood products (such as plasma or platelets) when possible and limiting the frequency and amount of red blood cell transfusions.

Interspecies Transfusions (Xenotransfusion)

In some cases, when cat blood is not available or compatible, veterinarians may consider using blood from another species (such as dogs) to perform a xenotransfusion. This is a controversial procedure in the United States but is frequently practiced in other countries.

Some of the possible advantages of xenotransfusion include:

  • Availability: Dog blood is more readily available than cat blood in most veterinary clinics and blood banks.
  • Compatibility: Dog blood does not have to be type-matched to the cat.
  • Cost: Xenotransfusion is cheaper than a standard feline transfusion.

Some of the possible disadvantages of xenotransfusion include:

  • Short-term effect: The effect of xenotransfusion is usually short-lived, as the recipient cat’s immune system will quickly destroy the foreign red blood cells. This means that xenotransfusion may only provide temporary relief, and a feline blood transfusion may be needed a few days later.

Success Rate of Transfusion

The success rate of a cat blood transfusion depends on many factors, such as:

  • The underlying cause and severity of the condition that requires transfusion
  • The compatibility and quality of the donor blood
  • The type and amount of blood products used
  • The skill and experience of the veterinarian and staff
  • The monitoring and care of the recipient cat before, during, and after transfusion

In general, a cat blood transfusion can improve the survival rate and quality of life of cats with life-threatening blood loss, anemia, or disease. However, it is not a cure and may not reverse the underlying condition. Therefore, it is important to follow up with the veterinarian and provide supportive care for the cat after transfusion.

Article Sources

BuzzPetz uses high-quality sources like medical journals, peer-reviewed studies, and statements from veterinarians to support the facts in our articles.

Deschamps, Jack-Yves et al. “Xenotransfusion of Blood from Dog to Cat: Should Canine Blood Be Our First Choice for Feline Transfusion in Emergency Situations?.” Veterinary sciences vol. 9,3 106. 28 Feb. 2022, doi:10.3390/vetsci9030106

Chase Roseberry Author Image
Chase Roseberry

Chase’s life has been a remarkable journey into the world of animals. From his time spent working with an equine Veterinarian, raising exotic snakes, and live coral aquaculture, his diverse background fuels his passion for the animal kingdom.

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