My cat's kidneys are failing. Is it worth getting her a blood transfusion?

Question: 

My cat has very a low red blood cell count and was treated for a urinary tract infection a few months ago. Since then, she has been to the vet several times because she isn't eating, and if she does eat, she throws the food back up. They have given her fluids under her skin twice, taken blood, and placed her on medication for 2 weeks that didn't work. Now they have referred me to a veterinary specialist so she can be given a blood transfusion. If her kidneys are failing, is it worth getting her a blood transfusion? And if she does get a transfusion, will it last very long or will she need more of them?

 

 

Answer: 

If your cat is in kidney failure, her red blood cell production will be reduced because the kidneys are partially responsible for stimulating the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. However, most cats with kidney failure tolerate their anemia without needing a blood transfusion. A blood transfusion is recommended if the red blood cell count is low enough to be compromising your cat's energy level and appetite. Unfortunately, the transfusion will wear off within a couple of weeks and the red blood cell count will return to its pre-transfusion level. Another alternative is to administer your cat injections of erythropoietin, which stimulates red blood cell production. These injections can be administered weekly. The advantages and risks associated with administering erythropoietin would need to be discussed with your veterinarian.

Various medications are available to control the other signs of kidney failure (loss of appetite, vomiting, etc.). It would be most important to keep her hydrated. As the kidney failure worsens over time, these medications will become less effective. These additional treatment options are best discussed with the specialist your veterinarian recommended, as they are extensively experienced in treating kidney failure patients.