Cats burned and exposed to fumes from the California wildfires are at increased risk of developing fatal blood clots, a new study suggests.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary ScienceIt follows up on previous findings that cats affected by wildfires in cities have higher rates of heart problems.
“Before these two papers, we didn’t know that cats injured in urban wildfires develop blood clots that lead to sudden death,” said Ronald Lee, associate professor of small animal emergency and critical care at the university. Veterinary Teaching Hospital of California, Davis.
“This research will change the standard of care given to cats rescued from these wildfires and hopefully save many more lives.”
Cats treated for injuries sustained in the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, California were some of the models for this study. Researchers have studied the platelets cells that circulate in the blood and stop bleeding or form blood clots. Wildfire-damaged cats have increased overactive platelets compared to healthy cats or cats with heart disease, in this case subclinical hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM. HCM is the most common heart disease in cats and causes thickening of the heart muscle.
“Cats with HCM are more thrombogenic, meaning they are more likely to develop blood clots,” says Ava Tan, a veterinary researcher who currently works in Lee’s lab. “That’s why we used them as a control group to compare with the cats in the wildfire group.”
The platelets of wildfire-damaged cats released large amounts of microvesicles, proteins that look like microscopic membranous bubbles, which are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and blood clots.
“We found that cats exposed to wildfire smoke and lesions were more prone to clot formation, indicating a link between wildfire injury, platelet reactivity, and clot formation,” Tan says.
In addition to blood clotting, platelets have many connections to overall cardiovascular health and disease. The research has identified a novel receptor, Toll-like-receptor-4, on cat platelets that may play a role in blood clotting and could be a target for future therapies.
“These results have major health implications for our gum patients and highlight the important role that platelets play in linking inflammation to the coagulation system,” says Lee.
Wildfires pose a great danger to people. Emergency room visits increase due to heart attacks and strokes after exposure to wild animals. Although the underlying mechanism is unknown in humans, this study in cats may shed light on systemic platelet function, which plays an important role in mediating the risk of blood clots due to wildfire injury.
“This study opens the door to how wildfires affect cardiovascular health in humans,” says Lee.
The researchers were able to use blood samples collected from cats brought from the campfire for treatment, and these two studies are still used today. This research led to a third study in progress to find new cellular processes that may explain why platelets are so sensitive and prone to clotting, especially in cats with heart disease or wildfire damage. The information gathered is critical to developing early treatment plans, Lee says.
The diagnostic and therapeutic management of feline burn victims reported in this study was funded by the UC Davis Animal Catastrophic Needs Fund. This study was funded through the Center for Allied Animal Health.
Source: UC Davis