At AREC we see many critical patients that require an emergency blood transfusion. These patients may have undergone a trauma, such as being in a motor vehicle accident, be suffering from rodenticide toxicity or may have any number of diseases that mean that they require blood.
Here at AREC, we rely on voluntary donations from owners and their pets to help these critically ill patients survive. If you think that you may be interested in your cat becoming one of our special blood donors, then this handout will provide you with some basic information about blood donation and what it entails.
Blood Donor Requirements
There are certain characteristics that a cat must have in order to be eligible to become a blood donor. The donor must:
- Be less than 8 years of age.
- Weigh at least 4.5kg.
- Be desexed if female (cannot have had a litter at any time)
- Desexed males are preferred
- Be up to date with their vaccination program.
- Be in good health, with no history of any serious illness.
- Have an excellent temperament.
- Live reasonably close to AREC or be willing to travel to Broadmeadow
- Pass a blood screening prior to donation.
- Have never received a blood donation themselves.
- Preferably an indoors only cat
If your cat does not meet these requirements then unfortunately they are not a suitable candidate for blood donation. These requirements are in place to ensure the health of both the donor and recipient of the blood.
The Blood Donation Process
If your cat does become a Feline blood donor then when they are called on to donate blood they will undergo the same procedure every time. AREC’s blood donation procedure is as follows:
- You and your cat will arrive at AREC. Initially we will record your cat’s weight, and ask you to sign a consent form for the donation procedure.
- The attending veterinarian will then conduct a brief consultation with you and your cat, where they will ask you questions about your cat’s recent health and medical history. If your cat is in good health and able to donate that day, then they will be admitted to our hospital.
- Blood will be drawn from one of your cat’s peripheral veins so that routine blood screening can be performed. These tests will include a blood typing test (done at your cat’s first donation), haematology, biochemistry and coagulation testing (taken before you cat’s initial donation and then every 3 donations or 1 year after the first tests depending on which is first) as well as a test to measure the concentration of red blood cells in your cat’s blood. Additional to the above health screening tests we will also test your cat for infectious diseases FeLV and FIV.
- All of these tests are done at no cost to you, and the results will be added to your cat’s medical record, which will then be forwarded to your daytime veterinarian.
- If all the blood results are normal, a catheter will be placed in your cat’s leg. This is to provide us with intravenous access so that fluids can be administered to your cat after the donation. This fluid replaces the volume of blood that is taken, and helps to keep your pet feeling well after they donate blood.
- Usually cats will require either deep sedation or a short anaesthetic for the donation procedure. This would be determined by the attending veterinarian after assessing your cats individual needs.
- Your cat’s neck will then be clipped and surgically prepped for the procedure. A special needle is then inserted into your cat’s jugular vein and the calculated safe volume of blood is collected in a bag. During this procedure your animal will be attended to by both a veterinarian and one of our emergency nursing staff.
- Once your cat has donated blood they are then moved to a comfortable, warm bed to recover. They are given intravenous fluids, and offered food when they are awake enough to eat. If necessary, a temporary bandage may be applied to the site where the blood was drawn from.
- Once your cat is sufficiently recovered they can be picked up and transported home. Most blood donors are ready to be taken home within a few hours of completing their donation.
The Risks of Blood Donation
Like any medical procedure there are risks associated with donating blood. At AREC our experienced veterinarians and nursing staff take every measure possible to minimize all the risks that can be involved, but it is important that if you are considering volunteering your cat as a blood donor that you know the possible complications. These can include:
- Rashes or skin irritation from clipping the donor’s hair.
- Swelling at the blood draw site.
- Haematoma formation at the blood draw site.
- Temporary weakness post donation.
If your cat requires sedation or anaesthesia for the blood donation procedure, then this too involves some risks, even though they are minimal. They can include, but are not limited to:
- Prolonged recovery post-donation.
We perform a thorough physical examination and blood tests to identify health problems and exclude some pets from donating. It is however, possible that some health problems might be undetected and those pets might have unanticipated adverse effects from blood donation and/or sedation or anaesthesia.
Please keep in mind that our staff are highly trained and experienced in performing this procedure and that all risks are minimal and everything possible will be done to ensure the health and wellbeing of your cat should they become a volunteer blood donor at our hospital.
If any medical treatment is required for your cat as a direct result of donating blood, then the AREC will provide this treatment free of charge.
Benefits of Being a Blood Donor
At AREC we greatly value both the owners and cats that participate in our blood donation program and help us to save the lives of the critical patients that we see. We try to provide our blood donors with both recognition and rewards for their invaluable donations. Should your cat become a blood donor at the AREC, the following benefits will be provided to you:
- Regular blood and health testing at no charge. This screening may pick up any health issues that your animal has, and results will be given to your daytime veterinarian.
- A certificate recognising your cat’s contribution as a volunteer blood donor.
- A Gift Voucher
If you would like to register your pet on our Feline blood donor register, please complete the online form.