Cats in the throes of kidney failure, leukemia, poisoning, injuries sustained in a car accident, or loss of too much blood during an operation are often aided by blood donations from other cats. Owners volunteer their pets as blood donors knowing that the process involves, at most, minimal discomfort. And besides taking pride in the fact that their pet’s donation may save lives, they can enjoy the benefits their cat receives in the form of incentives provided by veterinarians. These range from a basic blood examination that may uncover health issues to a free yearly exam.
Candidates for blood donors and those out of the running
At many veterinary facilities cats have to meet the following criteria:
-Between 2 and 6 years old.
-Weigh more than 10 pounds.
-Appropriate weight for her size.
-Good health in general.
-Up to date on all vaccinations.
-Not on any medications (including insect and parasite preventives).
-Criteria that would exclude your cat from being a blood donor:
-Having ever been pregnant.
-Recipient of a blood transfusion.
-Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).
-Exposure to other cats, not just through outdoor roaming but also via your fostering of other cats or cat sitting for a friend. There’s too much risk for exposure to communicable diseases that would be disqualifiers.
Your cat’s temperament is also crucial to keep in mind. Think mellow. Felines who do not like to be handled and are consistently uncooperative during veterinary visits, appearing traumatized throughout, would likely perceive the process of donating blood as a distressing ordeal.
What’s involved in the procedure?
If your pet meets the guidelines above and gets veterinary approval, the procedure is fairly straightforward. Upon sedation, an IV catheter is inserted. Blankets are placed for your pet’s comfort, and blood is drawn from a surgically scrubbed area that allows access to a large vein either in the neck or foreleg. About 2 ounces of blood are taken (as opposed to the pint or so taken from both dogs and people), depending on how much your cat weighs. As your cat recuperates, fluids are introduced through the catheter to prevent dehydration. Your pet relaxes in a quiet spot until she reaches alertness and is sometimes given a toy to take home.
Because your cat pretty much sleeps through the entire event and because it only takes a few minutes, she will not experience distress during the procedure itself. The only “pain” involved is that she must forego overnight snacking and morning breakfast, though water is okay. Donors are provided with food as soon as the procedure is over. Should it work out well and your cat seems no worse for the experience, you can donate as often as every 3 weeks, though commonly, donations occur more on the order of every 2 months.