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Call for donors: cats to help other cats at new feline blood bank

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A new feline blood bank is being launched at the University of Melbourne’s U-Vet Animal Hospital in Werribee.

U-Vet’s ability to store cat blood for life-saving transfusions means the animal hospital now meets the highest standards for feline emergency and critical care.

Veterinarians are calling for owners to volunteer their cats as blood donors to provide urgently-needed transfusions for other felines.

Blood Donor Program co-ordinator Kerry Bozicevic said cats require emergency blood transfusions in the same way humans do.

“If a cat loses blood due to trauma, surgery, immune system diseases, cancer or has a blood clotting disorder, it may require a blood transfusion to survive and to return to a meaningful life,” Mrs Bozicevic said.

“Time is critical when in need of a life-saving blood transfusion, and having blood products readily available may make all the difference.”

Each blood donation is separated into its red blood cell component and its plasma component. This allows the most efficient use the of blood donation, with red blood cells given to those cats with a very low red blood cell count, and the plasma component given to cats that are bleeding due to blood clotting issues.

“One blood donation can potentially save the lives of two cats,” Mrs Bozicevic said.

The U-Vet Feline Blood Bank collects blood from cats kept as pets and volunteered as donors by their owners.

Donating cats need to be:

  • between 1 and 5 years of age
  • 4kg or more in weight
  • healthy and with a calm temperament
  • up to date with vaccinations and parasite control
  • a Victorian resident (never travelled out of the state) and already not a blood transfusion recipient

All possible donor cats are tested to ensure that it is safe for them to donate blood and that the blood is of the highest quality. In the blood bank, red blood cells can be stored for 35 days. Plasma can be stored for up to three years.

For more information and to donate:

Enquiries and more information

or email UOM-Blood-Donor-Program@unimelb.edu.au

U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital is home to one of the first centres for veterinary emergency and critical care in the country. Its emergency room is staffed to see sick pets 24 hours, every day of the year, with about 5000 patients annually.


Easter Pet Safety Tips - Chocolate

Monday, April 10, 2017

Why is it a problem if my pet eats chocolate?

There are two chemicals in chocolate that are harmful to cats and dogs: theobromine and caffeine. The darker the chocolate, the greater the level of these chemicals and the less your pet needs to eat to cause a problem. Chocolate is toxic to both cats and dogs but dogs are more likely to scavenge and therefore suffer from chocolate toxicity. If enough chocolate is ingested it can be fatal.

What are the signs of chocolate toxicity?

Initially your pet may appear restless, start vomiting and/or have diarrhoea and show an increase in thirst and urination.

If not treated, the symptoms progress to their heart and breathing rates increase. They may appear shaky and unstable on their legs, have seizures and become unconscious.

What should I do if I think my pet has eaten chocolate?

If you think your pet has eaten chocolate or is showing any of the above symptoms call your vet immediately.

We are open 24/7 over the Easter period and we will be able to advise if your pet should be seen.

It helps us to have as much information as possible in order to assess what, if any, treatment your pet will need.

The questions we will ask include:

  • How much chocolate your pet has/may have eaten?
  • What time your pet ate the chocolate or had access to it?
  • What kind of chocolate your pet ate?
  • What is the weight of your pet?
Tips to protect your pet from chocolate toxicity:
  • If you’re having Easter egg hunts, keep dogs shut away in a completely different area of the property from where the egg hunt is held. Keep them away until the hunt is over.
  • Keep count of how many eggs are hidden and account for them at the end to make sure they have all been found.
  • Ensure family members aren’t leaving chocolate around the house or dropping chocolate on the floor.
  • Make sure all chocolate is shut away not left accessible around the house. Dogs can be very agile at getting into things that you think are out of their reach.
If your pet has eaten chocolate or you suspect they have or your pet shows symptoms, call us immediately. Most importantly – if in doubt call us for advice! We are always happy to help any time, day or night.

U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital’s Emergency & Critical Care service is ALWAYS OPEN.

Contact us on 03 9731 2000


Heat Stroke Safety Tips

Monday, March 13, 2017

It is important for pet owners to be aware that heat can cause heat stroke and be disastrous and fatal for pets. On hot summer days we receive a number of animals presented with heat stroke and near death. Heat stroke is a dire emergency and one from which many do not recover.

Here are some tips to keep your beloved pets safe during the warmer weather.
  • Never leave your pet in the car on a hot day, even with windows down and in the shade, not even for a minute. It may take only 10 minutes for a pet left in a car to die.
  • On hot days be mindful of pets outside, or enclosures unable to escape the heat, for example dogs in runs, and rabbit in hutches.
  • On extreme heat days bring pets indoors. If this is not possible make sure they have plenty of shade, fresh clean water and some iceblocks to lick as a minimum. For pocket pets, you can freeze there sipper bottles so nice cold water comes out. Even an icepack in their cage!
  • Keep pets hydrated.
Other factors that increase pets’ risk of developing heat stroke are being in an enclosed space, humid conditions, overweight pets, exercising pets in the heat, age of the pet, pre existing heart or lung disease, or if the pet is taken on holidays to a climate they are not used to.

Why does heat stroke occur?
Living cells of the body have temperature tolerant limits. Go beyond these limits and the cells break down. The longer the cell is above the 45 degree level, the faster cell death occurs, and the less likely the pet will recover. In fur-covered animals, they have few sweat glands, and their main way of cooling off is by panting.

What are the signs of heat stroke?
Signs of heat stroke are intense rapid panting, pounding heart, wide eyes, salivating, brick red gums, staggering, and weakness. They can then collapse, become unconscious, then gums then go pale and dry.

What do you need to do?
If you think your pet has heat stroke it is an emergency. For first aid, make sure the pet is put in a cold area or shade. Start soaking the body with cool water. Make sure that the water soaks to the skin and doesn’t just run off the fur. Don’t’ use cold or icy water, otherwise the superficial vessels at the skin constrict and the hot blood is trapped within the body, so the body stays hot still! Always seek Veterinary attention immediately!

Fore more information, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/pets/dogs/dog-health/heat-and-pets


Your cat could save lives!

Wednesday, November 09, 2016


Just like humans, pets can suffer from life-threatening illness such as anaemia, toxicity, trauma or severe injury that could result in them needing a life-saving blood transfusion. The challenge with cats' blood is that it can't be stored like human or dog blood, that's why we are seeking cats who live locally to sign up to be donors.

What will be required? Owners must understand that they may receive a phone call at any time asking for emergency blood donation from their cat. It's therefore preferable that donor cats live locally (within 20 minutes away from U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital).

Testing and blood compatibility.
Firstly we must take a blood sample to check blood type compatibility with the cat who requires transfusion. Due to the complexity of cats' blood, compatibility is critical. If your cat's blood is compatible we then run blood tests including haematology, biochemistry, FIV testing as well as a complete health check - this is all performed at no cost to you.

What is the process?
Most cats are sedated by our Anaethesia team before donating, so please don't feed them prior if you can although we understand this isn't always possible. We collect the blood from your cat's jugular vein in their neck and we generally collect no more than 40-50ml of blood. After donating, your cat will be placed on an IV drip and monitored closely through recovery, then fed and cuddled when they wake.

Our way of saying thank you!
To show our appreciation, your cat will be smothered with lots of hugs, love and support and sent home with a large bag of food* as a massive thank you for choosing to donate and helping save the lives of critically ill cat patients in need!


We are hoping to build a list of owners and willing cats who are happy to be called (potentially late at night!) to help any cats in desperate need of a blood transfusion.

Please see our Feline Blood Donor Checklist to see if your cat is suitable to be place on our database.

Feline Blood Donor Checklist:

  • Fully vaccinated (up-to-date vaccination certificate)
  • Be fit and healthy (preferably indoor lifestyle)
  • Weigh over 4kg and non-obese
  • Aged 1-8 years old
  • Have a calm temperament

If you are interested in having your cat on the Feline Blood Donor Database please provide us with your best contact details and the name, age, vaccination status of your cat. You can contact the Blood Donor Program directly on 03-9731-2328 or UOM-Blood-Donor-Program@unimelb.edu.au.

* Products, brands etc will vary.