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Cat Kidney Transplant

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Overview

When a cat is suffering from kidney failure, but is free of other illnesses, it may be a suitable candidate for a kidney transplant. Depending on the transplant program, the criteria used to determine if a cat is suitable can be different. A cat with very early kidney failure or very advanced kidney failure is usually disqualified, as there are other treatment options more suitable at this stage of disease. As well, a cat with a condition that is likely to cause the new kidney to fail will also be disqualified. Kidney transplant is not a guarantee of a disease-free future for the animal, and should be considered as one of the many options available. Each case is unique, and the prognosis of each treatment option should be evaluated carefully before making a decision that is best for the cat. Since a kidney transplant is a major surgery, the cat must have an otherwise clean bill of health and be in a very stable condition.

Depending on the transplant program, a donor cat may be available through a special research facility, or provided by the owners. In either case, the donor cat must be young, healthy adults that are free of infectious diseases, and are matched to the recipient by blood type. The owners are generally required to adapt the donor cat if it comes from a research facility.

Post-operative Treatment and Care

The recipient of the kidney will remain in intensive care for several weeks, during which the animal is kept on IV fluids and is given anti-rejection medications. Blood are drawn frequently to monitor the functions of the new kidney. After an animal has stabilized enough to be discharged, it still needs a period of recuperation and should be discouraged from any excessive movement for at least a month. Routine follow-up visits to the vet are required, especially in the beginning. Antibiotics are typically prescribed for the first few weeks to prevent infection. The animal will have to be kept on cyclosporine and prednisone for life to prevent the immune system from rejecting the new kidney. Since these drugs suppress the immune system, the animal can become more susceptible to new infections; therefore, yearly vaccinations and other disease prevention measures are more important for a cat that has received a kidney transplant.

Prognosis

The first six months after the surgery is a crucial period in determining the long term survival of the recipient. Recent studies reveal that around half of the cases survived to 3 years after the transplant. Considering that an acute kidney failure is immediately life-threatening, this prognosis is encouraging. If the recipient survived the first six months, it can generally return to a normal life. In the case of the donor, they have a normal life expectancy and are no more susceptible to kidney diseases than cats with both kidneys. Generally speaking, kidney transplant in cats is a safe procedure and is one of the more developed transplant programs available in veterinary medicine.

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