Cats have three major types of blood: A, B and AB. “Since cats have naturally occurring antibodies against blood types other than their own, there is no such thing as a universal cat donor,” explains Elizabeth Rozanski, DVM, Associate Professor of Emergency and Critical Care in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Cummings.
So, prior to any transfusion, the donor cat’s blood must be matched with the recipient’s. It’s crucial for veterinarians to use the right type of blood, emphasizes Dr. Rozanski. “You can kill a cat by administering a quarter-teaspoon of type B blood to a type A cat,” she warns. “Giving A blood to a B cat is not quite as serious.”
Like most university-affiliated veterinary schools, Tufts maintains a blood bank for cat and dog patients at its hospital. “But Tufts is a busier hospital than most, with a greater need for blood,” notes Dr. Rozanski. “In addition, we do more transfusions than we used to. Just 15 years ago, we might have had only one or two units available. Today, we usually have 20 to 40 on hand.”
Tufts purchases about 60 percent of the blood it needs. This amount is supplemented by donor cats. “For certain critically ill cats — like those with hemophilia — a life-saving dose of blood donated by other cats makes a world of difference,” says Dr. Rozanski. “Without an available blood supply, these cats simply would not survive.”