- Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 


Cat Kidney Transplants Come With Controversy

November 13th, 2004, 10:05 PM
Cat Kidney Transplants Come With Controversy

DAVISCalif. - Organ transplants can be life-saving procedures, not just for humans, but also for pets.

The UC Davis Veterinary Hospital is one of only a handful of animal hospitals in the country that perform pet kidney transplants. But the procedure hasn't come without controversy.

To Jonathan Pick, his cat, Maxwell, is more than just a pet.

"He is a member of our family," Pick said.

Maxwell became a candidate for a kidney transplant at the UC Davis Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The cat is suffering kidney failure, and taking another cat's kidney is his last chance.

UC Davis began animal kidney transplants in 1987. It is one of the first clinical programs in the country and still regarded as one of the best.

"We didn't offer to start kidney transplantation. We were asked by the public to start kidney transplantation," said hospital spokeswoman Dr. Clare Gregory.

The procedure is expensive. The deposit alone is $6,000. It's also risky. Organ rejection and even death are not uncommon.

"Twenty percent don't make it past the first year," said surgeon Dr. Margo Mehl.

Peck decided to go ahead with surgery, choosing a donor from the research cats in the nutrition lab. Adopting the donor, Frodo, will be part of the deal. People come in with one cat, but leave with two.

On surgery day, Maxwell and Frodo were put under anesthesia. The operation takes hours and requires a team of doctors. It's meticulous work. The needle is smaller than an eyelash, and the thread is thinner than a hair.

"I think his outlook is good," Mehl said after the surgery.

Pet kidney transplant does not come without controversy, though. Animal rights groups say it's a violation of the donor animal because its organs are taken without its permission.

"These cats don't give their consent to have their kidneys removed, nor have they given consent to be research subjects at UC Davis," said Animals Protection Institute spokeswoman Michelle Thew.

Two weeks after surgery, Maxwell and Frodo were sent home. Maxwell will have to take anti-rejection drugs indefinitely, but his recovery is going well.

"We're starting to see the Maxwell that we used to see. Every day he gets a little bit better," Pick said.

The hospital says it does kidney transplants for cats on a regular basis, but rarely does transplants for dogs because canines are genetically more diverse and not as well-suited for transplant surgery.