Tiny Ellie relies on urgent blood transfusion to stay alive

A four-week-old kitten who was on the brink of death was saved by a transfusion of dog’s blood.

The canine blood kept little Ellie – who, at just 10 ounces, was less than a third of the weight of a bag of sugar – alive.

The rare procedure was only performed because there was not enough time to find a suitable cat donor.

Since then Ellie has beaten the odds and is now fighting fit.

Emergency vets and vet nurses at our clinic in Gateshead, along with cat lover Maureen Franklin, founder of the New Beginnings Cat Rehoming charity, played a vital role in Ellie’s recovery.

  1. Ellie's struggle

    Little Ellie needed an emergency blood transfusion after becoming anaemic due to a flea infestation.

    Tiny kitten receiving oxygen from mask during Vets Now treatment
  2. Ellie's struggle

    She received blood from hero donor dog Bella.

    Bella the dog sitting in the garden before Vets Now blood transfusion
  3. Ellie's struggle

    Ellie was named after this cat, who also donated blood to her.

    Cat blood donor lying down before Vets Now blood transfusion
  4. Ellie's struggle

    Thankfully, after dicing with death for several days, Ellie has since made a full recovery.

    Tiny kitten, Ellie, recovering after blood transfusion at Vets Now

“I got a call about Ellie overnight to say she was very poorly,” said Maureen, 68, who has saved countless cats since setting up New Beginnings five years ago.

“She was absolutely covered in fleas and when we got her to the vets she had no red cells and her gums were actually white.

“She needed a transfusion and because it was so urgent, they did that with blood from a dog.”

Veterinary nurse Helen Spry, who works in our Gateshead clinic, saved the day, not only by administering the vital transfusion, but by allowing her own dog, Bella, to act as the blood donor.

The life-saving procedure, known as a xenotransfusion, kept the desperately ill kitten alive in the short term, but she soon took a turn for the worse again.

Our team proved to be the salvation once more for Maureen and her little kitten.

Like all of the nationwide network of clinics and hospitals, it’s open through the night, seven days a week, and day and night at weekends and bank holidays.

“Ellie was suffering from severe anaemia,” said senior emergency vet Sara Jackson.

“Blood transfusions between two species are not common. But if we didn’t do it, she would have died, so we had nothing to lose.

“Although the xenotransfusion kept her going for several days, it wasn’t enough and she deteriorated again and we needed to organise a feline blood donor.”

Cat’s blood is a little harder to come by than dog’s blood so with time running out, Maureen put out an urgent call to her charity’s 6000 followers.

Thankfully, one of them had a healthy cat she thought might fit the bill and checks at Vets Now found she was a suitable donor.

“The donor cat was an absolutely perfect match, so it was able to go ahead in the nick of time,” said Maureen.

Following the donation and dedicated after-care, little Ellie soon showed signs of a remarkable recovery.

“She somehow made it through the night and in the morning she was much brighter and even eating and playing,” said Sara.

Image of a kitten who needed a cat blood transfusion to survive
Ellie looking much brighter after her blood transfusion

Kind-hearted supporters of New Beginnings rallied round to meet the cost of the skilled Vets Now treatment and Maureen was thrilled to have the kitten safely back.

“I had a cat who needed a transfusion years ago so I know the difference it can make,” said Maureen. “But it was still amazing to see how she looked.

“When she went in she was nearly dead and she was so weak she could barely lift her head up.

“Vets Now did an amazing job with her and we’re so grateful to them. Just the week before I had two cats die before I could get them help so it was beautiful to get her home.

“She was soon running around the living room and putting on weight. She had actually been called Angel but I think it was only right that we renamed her Ellie after the cat that saved her.”

Sara, who is district clinical lead at Vets Now, said Ellie’s remarkable case epitomised what Vets Now is all about.

She added: We had multiple critical cases in the clinic that night and Helen said ‘let’s try a blood transfusion’ because there was no other option.

“Helen was transfusing the kitten while closely monitoring another critical patient I was working on. It really was awesome teamwork.”

The Vets Now clinic in Gateshead – where Ellie received treatment – is one of more than 60 across the UK that are open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.

All of Vets Now’s premises have a vet and vet nurse on-site at all times.