2001-Sun Feb 26 21:26:11 MST 2017
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
If the need arises, humans can go on an organ transplant list for everything from lungs to livers. But for pets, it's much more complicated. We spoke with two experts to find out what you need to know when it comes to organ transplants in animals.
The only type of organ transplant available right now for pets is a kidney transplant, according to Dr. Lillian Aronson, associate professor of small animal surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine. These are performed mostly in cats, due to difficulty suppressing the immune systems of dogs. Dogs are more likely to reject a donor kidney unless it comes from a related dog, which can sometimes be hard to find.
For cats, there is no need for the donor and recipient to be related. Dr. Chad Schmiedt, associate professor of soft tissue surgery at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says blood cross matches are done to make sure the cats are compatible. Most cats match each other, he says. The three options for finding a donor cat are:
All donor cats need to be young, but at least a year old, and very healthy. Choosing a donor cat from a shelter is done very carefully, to make sure he carries no diseases that can be transmitted to the recipient.
If your cat is experiencing kidney failure and is in need of a transplant, she will have to fulfill certain requirements to qualify.
“The cat has to be relatively healthy, other than its kidney failure," Dr. Schmiedt says. “It doesn’t make sense to take a kidney from a donor and then the recipient has heart disease and does not live six months after. They need a healthy heart and no other infections or diseases.”
Once that is determined, it can take a couple of weeks to find a donor cat. After surgery, the donor will be hospital-bound for two to four days, while the recipient will stay in the hospital for a couple of weeks. As for cost, Dr. Schmiedt says it varies, but the transplant is usually between $10,000 and $20,000, with the donor surgery costing between $3,000 and $5,000. This doesn’t include the thousands of dollars an owner will have to spend on medication and vet checks after the surgery.
After a transplant, the recipient tends to live an average of two to three years. She gains a new companion as well. “The owner of the recipient is responsible for adopting the donor cat, so we’re saving two cats’ lives,” Dr. Aronson says.
The reason veterinarians only transplant kidneys right now is because any other organ transplant, like the heart or lungs, would kill the donor. Dr. Schmiedt says there’s no infrastructure set up in case of accidental pet deaths, either.
“If [a human] needs a heart, is sitting and waiting, and a young healthy kid is in a motorcycle wreck and dies, there is an infrastructure to get the heart to a recipient. If a young healthy dog is hit by a car, there is no infrastructure at all to get that animal’s organs into a recipient with any type of speed,” Dr. Schmiedt says.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
Dogs and cats help improve our mental,
social and physical health — and we
have the science to prove it!
We asked our readers to share the funny
things and skillful tricks their dogs will do
to get Milk-Bone® Pill…
It’s more than just cute when your kitty
naps in a box — it’s an instinctive
behavior that’s hardwired in her…
Herding dog, search-and-rescue dog, guide dog, police dog, farm dog — you name it, the German Shepherd can do it.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.