Kaneli donates blood together with his owner
The family cat, Kaneli is a blood-donor, too in Anu Rosti’s family. The most recent call came in the summer heat, when a feline friend had sustained injuries after falling out of a window. The blood separation equipment of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital was donated by the Blood Service.
It was a Friday afternoon in August, when veterinary nurse Anu Rosti got a telephone call from her workplace on her day off. Her family pet, Kaneli the cat, was urgently needed for a blood donation.
"A typical case in the summer heat; a fall from an open window", Anu sighs.
For Kaneli, this meant a short-term fast and taking off to the University of Helsinki's Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Cat blood donations take place under a light anaesthesia, so the stomach should be as empty as possible.
The blood is collected from the jugular vein with a syringe into a blood collection bag. The amount depends on the weight of the pet. As a tomcat weighing six kilos, Kaneli can donate a little over 50 ml. After the donation, IV hydration is administered to the pet. After waking up, the hero cat gets to enjoy high-energy donor snacks.
"Everything has always gone well for us, and I have never noticed any difference in the cat's well-being after making the donation. Still, we do not make donations as often as you could, because it is still a little stressing for the cat, no matter how laid back they are," Anu says.
Equipment donated by the Blood Service
The University of Helsinki's Veterinary Teaching Hospital is a pioneer in the pet blood bank activities. Dogs, horses and cats all have their own donors. Nowadays, some private clinics also have small-scale blood bank activities.
There are approximately two dozen cats in the feline blood donor register that was first set up about ten years ago. The donors have been found with the help of cat breed clubs and the social media. Owners are also often active and contact the Veterinary Hospital after hearing about the Blood Bank operations.
"I was the nurse in charge of the Cat Blood Bank when I got my pet cats, so it went without that saying that if they met the weight requirements and other donor criteria, I would register them. It turned out that my other cat, Joey, is easily stressed, so I have not used him as a donor," Anu explains.
Over the years, the Blood Service has donated its old separation equipment to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The whole blood of cats is separated into red blood cells and plasma. Sometimes the blood is also used as whole blood. A cat patient may need blood products for example after having lost blood due to an injury, because of a serious infection or a snake bite, or when suffering from a condition that causes anaemia.
"We always try to help, and usually the blood products do make the pet feel better, at least for a little while," Anu says.
Helping humans and animals
Kaneli's owner also donates blood regularly. You can say that it "runs in the blood": her father donated more than 150 times. Anu is also trained as a practical nurse, and she has been involved in the activities of the Finnish Red Cross first-aid groups. They gave her the idea of continuing her studies from her practical nurse degree, and she is now studying to become an entry-level paramedic on top of her job at the Veterinary Hospital.
"I have always been the volunteer type, and with age my worldview has deepened. I want to help people, too, when they need urgent care, in addition to animals."
Kaneli is already eight years old, so he will soon go on a well-deserved retirement. But Anu will continue in the footsteps of her father.
"I am not sure if I, as a woman, will be able to reach the same numbers, but that is an excellent goal!"