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Tiny Kitten Saved by Dog Blood Transfusion

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When a tiny kitten desperately needed blood, but there was no time to find a suitable cat donor, doctors at Vets Now performed a rare and life-saving procedure known as xenotransfusion, using a dog’s blood to save the kitten’s life.

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Little Ellie, a 4-week old kitten saved by a rare dog-to-cat blood transfusion. Image courtesy of Vets Now

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 little Ellie — who, at just 10 ounces, was less than a third of the weight of a bag of sugar — alive.

The rare procedure was only performed because there was not enough time to find a suitable cat donor.

Since then Ellie has beaten the odds and is now fighting fit.

Emergency vets and vet nurses at Vets Now in Gateshead, along with cat lover Maureen Franklin, founder of the New Beginnings Cat Rehoming charity, played a vital role in Ellie’s recovery.

“I got a call about Ellie overnight to say she was very poorly,” said Maureen, 68, who has saved countless cats since setting up New Beginnings five years ago. “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.”

Veterinary nurse Helen Spry, of Vets Now in Gateshead, saved the day, not only by administering the vital transfusion, but by allowing her own dog, Bella, to act as the blood donor.

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Bella, the canine donor whose blood saved Ellie’s life. Image courtesy of Vets Now.

The life-saving procedure, known as a xenotransfusion, kept the desperately ill kitten alive in the short term, but she soon took a turn for the worse again. The Vets Now pet emergency clinic in Gateshead proved to be the salvation once more for Maureen and her little kitten.

Like all of the nationwide network of clinics and hospitals, it’s open through the night, seven days a week, and day and night at weekends and bank holidays.

“Ellie was suffering from severe anemia,” 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.”

Cat’s blood is a little harder to come by than dog’s blood so with time running out, Maureen put out an urgent call to her charity’s 6000 followers. Thankfully, one of them had a healthy cat she thought might fit the bill and checks at Vets Now found she was a suitable donor.

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A feline donor, Ellie, whose generous blood donation also saved the kitten’s life and inspired her new name. Image courtesy of Vets Now.

“The donor cat was an absolutely perfect match, so it was able to go ahead in the nick of time,” said Maureen.

Following the donation and dedicated after-care, little Ellie soon showed signs of a remarkable recovery. “She somehow made it through the night and in the morning she was much brighter and even eating and playing,” continued Sara at Vets Now.

Kind-hearted supporters of New Beginnings rallied round to meet the cost of the skilled Vets Now treatment and Maureen was thrilled to have the kitten safely back.

“When she went in she was nearly dead and she was so weak she could barely lift her head up. Vets Now did an amazing job with her and we’re so grateful to them. Just the week before I had two cats die before I could get them help so it was beautiful to get her home.

Sara Jackson, who is district clinical lead at Vets Now, said Ellie’s remarkable case epitomised what Vets Now is all about. 

She 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. 

The Vets Now clinic in Gateshead — where Ellie received treatment — is one of more than 60 across the UK that are open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.

We’re all familiar with the need for human blood donors, many of us have given blood or do so regularly, knowing that our healthy blood could mean the difference between life and death for another person in need. But, many people don’t realize that animals need blood donors, too. Would your dog be a good candidate to donate blood?

Vets Now was established in 2001 and is the leading provider of emergency veterinary care for companion animals in the UK. With 24/7 Pet Emergency Hospitals in Glasgow, Manchester and Swindon, and 59 out-of-hours clinics nationwide, Vets Now is committed to delivering a responsive emergency and critical care service for cats, dogs and other small animals.

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