PHILADELPHIA, PA- Gordy, an eight-year-old black cat owned by Marion Dubbs of Baltimore, became the 100th kidney recipient in the Penn Vet Feline Renal Transplant Program. With the assistance of her surgical team, Dr. Lillian R. Aronson, associate professor of small animal surgery at Penn’s Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital, successfully completed the six-hour surgery earlier this week.
“There is no cure for kidney failure, in humans or in cats,” said Dr. Aronson. “It can be managed, but when therapies are ineffective, transplantation is an option for cats here at the Ryan Veterinary Hospital.”
Penn Vet began its Feline Renal Transplant Program at the Ryan Veterinary Hospital in 1998. Today, Ryan is the only teaching veterinary hospital on the East Coast that performs feline kidney transplants. One important requirement of the program: The donor cat, in this case Jack, a black one-year-old cat originally from a shelter in York County, goes home with the recipient cat. In this way, one cat’s life is saved thanks to a new kidney, and another’s life is saved through its rescue from a shelter.
The transplant procedure involved two surgical teams operating on both cats simultaneously. Donor cats fare well – just as human donors do – with only one kidney. Much of what is learned about the immune system in doing feline renal transplants can be translated into human medicine, where researchers use information to study immunosuppression in humans who have had transplants.
The mean survival time for recipient cats is close to four years, with some cats living eight years or more following transplantation. Doctors will monitor Gordy closely for the next six months, and he will have checkups for the rest of his life. Jack, who needs minimal follow up, will be ready to move to his new home in just a few days.