Four-week kitten undergoes ‘xenotransfusion’ procedure with a dog blood donor

A four-week-old kitten who was on the brink of death was saved by a transfusion of dog’s blood.

The canine blood kept Ellie, who weighs 10 ounces alive, as the rare life-saving procedure, xenotransfusion, was performed because there was not enough to find a suitable cat donor.

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New Beginnings Cat Rehoming charity founder, Maureen Franklin, who played a “vital role” in Ellie’s recovery alongside the vets and nurses said she got a call overnight regarding Ellie’s health. 

 “She was absolutely covered in fleas and when we got her to the vets she had no red cells and her gums were actually white. She needed a transfusion and because it was so urgent, they did that with blood from a dog.”

 The veterinary nurse from Vets Now in Gateshead, Helen Spry, performed the procedure as well as allowing her own dog, Bella, to act as a temporary blood donor. 

The xenotransfusion procedure kept the kitten alive in the short term, but she “soon took a turn for the worse again.”

Franklin put out an urgent call to her charity’s 6000 followers as cat’s blood is a little harder to find in comparison to dogs blood.

One of the followers said they had a healthy cat who might have fit the bill, Vets Now found she was a suitable donor. Franklin said: “The donor cat was an absolutely perfect match, so it was able to go ahead in the nick of time.” 

 “Ellie was suffering from severe anaemia,” said emergency vet Sara Jackson, who is the district clinical lead for the Vets Now Gateshead clinic.

 “Blood transfusions between two species are not common. But if we didn’t do it, she would have died, so we had nothing to lose. Although the xenotransfusion kept her going for several days, it wasn’t enough and she deteriorated again and we needed to organise a feline blood donor.”

 Spry added: We had multiple critical cases in the clinic that night and our vet nurse Helen said ‘let’s try a blood transfusion’ because there was no other option Helen was transfusing the kitten while closely monitoring another critical patient I was working on.”

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