Qualifying for this procedure begins with a series of tests, according to Jean Ferreri, DVM of NYC Veterinary Specialists and Cancer Treatment Center. “The animal is screened for other infectious diseases,” Ferreri said. “After the procedure the animal goes through immunosuppressive therapy and underlying infectious diseases could become much worse.” The immune suppressive medications are used to prevent rejection of the new organ.
Kidney transplants for felines are intended for those patients who have tried all other options. As for recommending the surgery, Ferreri said it depends on the patient. “I have recommended some and I haven’t others,” Ferreri said. “There is a lot of potential for complications. ”Some of the complications include rejection of the new kidney, infections from immune-suppressive therapy, and scarring of the ureter.
Symptoms of a cat experiencing kidney failure include rapid weight loss, salivation, an unhealthy coat, a loss of appetite, bad breath, vomiting, and trouble urinating.
Benefits of the procedure are a better quality of life for the cat, a longer life, and, of course, a new member of the family. The donor cat comes from a research facility, since cats with brain damage cannot have their organs harvested.
The transplant can place the recipient cat in the hospital for, on average of one month, according to Gerianne Holzman, CVT of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in Madison, WI. This is often because the patients come from far away and need to be looked at after surgery.
The cost of the procedure is not as much as a human kidney transplant, but it is still very costly. Including the donor, the transplant can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000, and in some cases has reached $25,000. The price fluctuates based on the complications.
The cause of the kidney failure could be one of many reasons. Some of the causes include infections, tumors, diabetes, high blood pressure, and, most interesting, eating certain species of lilies.
Toxins can also lead to kidney failure. “Ingesting antifreeze can cause kidney failure almost immediately,” said Holzman. The recent pet food recall has contributed to cat kidney infections. The chemical found in the food, melamine, when combined with cyanuric acid creates yellowish-brown crystals in the cat’s kidneys which then lead to organ failure.
The survival rate, according to Holzman, is between 80-85%. “We look at the surgery as the last thing they do before euthanizing the cat,” she said.