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Feline Kidney Transplants

A Brief History of Feline Kidney Transplants Feline Kidney Transplant Facilities The Transplant Procedure The Kidney Recipient The Kidney Donor The Caregivers

A Brief History of Feline Kidney Transplants

Kidney transplants in animals date back to 1902 where the first reported ones were done in Vienna by Dr. Emerich Ulmann. By 1905, Dr. Alexis Carrel was performing transplants in the United States and some of the basic techniques that he developed are still in use today.

Though the surgical procedures have existed for some time, the real problem was preventing the immune system from viewing the transplanted organ as a foreign body which must be attacked and destroyed. The solution did not come until 1970 when cyclosporine was discovered in soil fungus. This powerful and effective antirejection drug made transplants a reality. Today, other more effective immune suppressing drugs are becoming available for both human and animal transplants.

In the mid-1980s, the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis (UCD) pioneered a kidney transplant program in the hopes of making this option readily available to caregivers with CRF cats. To date, this facility has performed more transplants than any other location but qualified transplant surgeons are now available in other areas of the United States. The surgical procedure and postoperative protocol have gradually been perfected and transplantation is no longer considered experimental.

Initially, the objective was to add at least a year to the patient's life but more recently two to six+ years is common. Since transplants are most often performed on senior cats, a reasonable life expectancy will vary depending on age. At this time, the longest feline survivors are out ten years postoperatively. As more and more transplants have been done, the procedures have improved and more expertise has been gained in donor selection and recipient screening. Feline renal transplantation is now an accepted and relatively safe treatment for patients in renal failure. A successful transplant extends life and allows the patient to return to normal activity. The success rate for candidates in good condition is now 80 to 90 percent.