How many lives has your cat saved today?
Blood products are a life-saving resource for injured and critically ill patients. From cancer, anemia, and clotting problems to a traumatic incident, blood and plasma can be a crucial part of a pet’s treatment. Feline blood has a small window of viability; it is unable to be “banked” like human blood. Having a network of donors is vital to providing our patients the blood they need, when they need it. Although VREC has several employee cats in the blood donation roster, the need for feline blood donations keeps growing.
That’s why, for the first time, VREC is opening the blood donor program to the community. To ensure the ongoing safety and well-being of both donor and recipient, VREC has a stringent application process. All candidates receive an exam, bloodwork, and blood typing at VREC (at no cost.) Each time a donor donates blood, they receive a tasty meal and praise from the staff. A monetary stipend is awarded to the owners each time their cat participates in the program.
Donor Process Information:
How to become a donor:
The following requirements must be met to become a donor:
- Owner commitment of two years of participation in the donor program,
- Cat must be indoor-only,
- Weigh at least 10 pounds (4.5 kg,)
- Between 12 months and 8 years old,
- Up to date on vaccines (vet must provide documentation of vaccinations,)
- No previous plasma or blood transfusions,
- Tolerant of being handled, and
- Pass a physical exam performed by a VREC clinician.
After applying, cats will receive an examination by a VREC clinician to ensure they are healthy. The exam includes thoracic radiographs (chest/torso) and blood tests. The exam and diagnostics check for underlying diseases, the levels of white and red blood cell counts, and test for blood type. The exam and tests performed to qualify for the program are at no cost to owner. When test results are available they will be shared with both owners and referring veterinarian.
Types of blood products:
Blood drawn from a donor is called whole blood. Whole blood can be administered as-is or can be separated into packed red blood cells, plasma, and platelets.
Red blood cells are the cells which carry oxygen around the body. These are often used for chemotherapy patients, parasite infestations, and anemic cats.
Plasma is the fluid component of blood which carries the red blood cells around. The major protein in plasma is albumin, which helps retain fluid and can help pass chemicals and hormones around the body. Plasma is administered to patients with clotting concerns and pancreatitis.
Platelets are very small cells in the blood which help with clotting. They prevent extended periods of bleeding after an injury.
The importance of blood typing:
Blood typing is important for the compatibility and safety of the recipient. Just like humans, cats who receive the wrong blood type are at a much higher risk for adverse reactions.
Blood donor procedures:
To ensure donor safety, the donation procedure is closely monitored by trained staff in the treatment area. For safety and comfort of the donor, cats are sedated during the donation. The blood draw site on the neck is clipped and cleaned, and blood is drawn using a sterile needle from the jugular vein. Blood is collected into a sterile bag. Once the donation is complete the donor receives fluids to ensure blood volume and pressure are at appropriate levels. The donor is offered a tasty meal for energy and is given lots of love from our staff for a job well done!
Risks associated with donation:
As long as a cat passes the aforementioned tests and exams, risks to a donor cat are low. However, despite taking all proper precautions, any intervention carries a small risk. Potential complications from donating are uncommon, but can include rash, sensitivity at the clipping site, or sensitivity to the anesthetic used. While VREC’s clinicians perform exams and pertinent tests prior to the donation, low blood pressure may occur during the donation. This has potential to make previously undetectable heart conditions noticeable.
To be part of the VREC blood donor program, owners must commit to the program for at least two years of potential donations, pending any major health concerns with the donor cat. Our veterinarians may discharge your cat from the program if they experience complications during the donation process which may increase the risk of complications in the future.
To remain eligible for the program, cats must have an annual health screening at VREC. This screening, provided at no cost, is to ensure both the health and wellbeing of the donor and for the safety of the recipients. Cats in the program must also continue to have routine veterinary care and stay current on vaccines and preventives. Financial responsibilities of routine care are at the expense of the owner. Please note that donors will be removed from the program if there is a lapse in care.
Completed applications can be delivered or mailed to 318 Northern Boulevard, Clarks Summit PA 18411. Applications can also be faxed to 570.587.7793. Paper applications are available at our facility 24/7.