By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM
Last week, I gave some visitors a tour of The Animal Medical Center. As we journeyed from floor to floor looking at high tech equipment and cute pets, one guest asked me if pets could be organ donors. I thought for a minute and then said, “Yes!”
Saving a dog’s eyesight
Many years ago, I helped take care of an Otterhound with a melanoma on the white part of his eye: in doctors’ terms, the sclera. The AMC’s ophthalmologist surgically removed the tumor from the eye, leaving a gap where the tumor had been. Then, using a corneal-scleral graft, the eyeball was repaired, restoring the eye to a normal appearance. Even better, the Otterhound’s vision remained normal. A recent publication confirms the excellent outcome from this delicate surgery. Without the thoughtful and generous donation of an eye from a dog of a bereaved family, my Otterhound patient would have lost his vision and his eye to cancer.
Fixing failing feline kidneys
Kidney disease occurs commonly in cats. In many cats, a good quality of life can be maintained using kidney friendly diets, supplementing potassium and fluids, and by managing high blood pressure caused by the kidney disease. For some cats, a kidney transplant is the solution to kidney disease that is gradually worsening and having a negative impact on the cat’s quality of life.
Similar to human kidney transplants, the cat kidney donor shares its “spare kidney” with an unfortunate feline who has two bad ones. The kidney donor cat can be one of the transplant recipient’s housemates or a cat who then joins the family of the recipient cat following the transplant. Donor requirements include good health and a blood type match with the recipient.
Severe fractures, gunshot wounds and bone cancer can all damage a dog’s leg bone beyond repair. Removal of the damaged or cancerous bone leaves the limb unsupported and nonfunctional. One method of repair for limbs such as these is to place a piece of donor bone in the leg to close the gap. Donated bone can be stored in a special freezer in a bone bank for animals for up to 5 years before it is used to replace a diseased section of bone. Measurements of your dog’s injured leg bone are made from x-rays and sent to the bone bank who then chooses the replacement bone to match the size of your dog’s leg bone as closely as possible.
Need a specially trained ophthalmologist for a tricky surgery on your dog’s eye? Find one on the America College of Veterinary Ophthalmology website.
Learn more about kidney transplants in cats.
Investigate having your pet help other pets through organ donation.