It turns out cats and dogs can be better matches than we often think.
After growing concerned about his 18-month-old orange tabby cat's unexplained, overly lethargic behavior, Florida Keys resident Ernie Saunders brought the pet to the Marathon Veterinary Hospital on Sept. 16 for help. Soon thereafter Buttercup was diagnosed by veterinarian Dr. Sean Perry with a low red blood cell count -- down to 7 percent, making him severely anemic, reported KeysInfoNet.
Dr. Perry knew the cat needed a blood transfusion to return his red cell level to a normal 35 percent, but it would take anywhere between 24 and 48 hours to acquire the right type of cat blood -- far too long for the cat to wait and survive.
However, the clinic had donated dog blood available, and coincidentally cats are the only cross-species known to veterinarians that are able to receive a blood transfusion from dogs. Dr. Perry told ABC News that these cross-species transfusions, named xenotransfusions, are incredibly rare. Buttercup is now one of only 62 cases in the United States to be recorded by the National Library Of Medicine.
Buttercup receiving his canine blood transfusion
"Cat's blood is a little harder to come by and not as available as dog's blood," Perry told KeysInfoNet. "We had greyhound blood packs that we get from a blood bank that has red blood cells separated from plasma. Buttercup showed no signs of rejection during the transfusion."
Dr. Perry also told Business Insider that xenotransfusions can only be performed once on any given feline. Subsequent exposure leads to the build up of antibodies against the dog blood cells, catalyzing the body's instinct to attack them and break them down. But lucky for Buttercup, it doesn't look like the idea of a second exposure is at all an issue.
Within four hours of the transfusion, Buttercup began returning to his normal self. He is now on his way to a successful recovery at home, receiving regular check-ups at the veterinarian hospital. He has also officially began developing red blood cells of his own again, according to ABC News.