Researchers at the University of California Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital have found that cats who were exposed to smoke and burns from wildfires in California are more likely to develop blood clots. The journal recently published the study. Frontiers in Veterinary SciencesThe new study confirms a previous finding that cat injured in urban wildfires caused high rates of heart disease.
“Prior the publication of these two papers, it was not known that urban wildfire-affected cats were prone for clot formation, which can lead t o sudden death,” Ronald Li, associate professor at UC Davis, said. “This research will revolutionize the way wildfire-rescued cats are treated and saved lives.
Platelets with too many active cells
This study was conducted on cats that were treated for injuries sustained in the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise (California). The researchers examined platelets, which are blood cells that aid in blood clotting or stopping bleeding. Researchers found that wildfire injury cats had higher levels of overactive platelets than normal cats and cats suffering from heart disease (subclinical hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM). HCM, which causes thickening of heart muscle and is the most common type of cardiac disease in cats, is the most prevalent.
Ava Tan is a lead co-author and a veterinary research fellow currently employed in Li’s lab. She explained, “Cats with HCM can be hypercoagulable which means they are more susceptible to form clots.” “That is why we used them to compare with cats from the wildfire group.
High levels of microvesicles were also found in the platelets of wildfire-injured cat’s. These are microscopic, membranous, bubble-like structures that contain proteins and are linked to cardiovascular disease and increased risk of clotting.
Tan stated, “We found that cats exposed to wildfire fumes and injuries are more prone than others to throwing clots. This is due to an association between wildfire injury, platelet response, and clot formation.”
Platelets are important for overall health and prevention of disease and clot-related complications. The study also led to the discovery of a novel receptor on cat platelets, Toll-Like-Receptor-4, that may play a role in clotting and could be the target for treatments developed in the future.
Li stated that these results could have greater health implications for feline patients. They also highlight the importance of platelets in linking inflammation and the coagulation system.
Human health impacts
Also, wildfires can pose a serious risk to humans. Heart attack and stroke rates increase in emergency rooms after wildlife exposure. While the exact mechanism behind wildfire-related clots is unknown, this study in cats might shed some light on the role of systemic platelet activation.
Li stated that the study “opens up a new way to look at how wildfires affect cardiovascular health in people.”
The researchers were able use blood samples from cats that had been treated for Camp Fire injuries. This research has led to a third study that is ongoing to uncover new cellular processes. These could explain why feline plates are so sensitive to bleeding, particularly in wildfire-injured cats. Li explained that the early development of treatment plans is dependent on the data collected.
Ashley Sharpe, Joshua Stern and Catherine Gunther–Harrington are veterinary cardiologists. Yu Ueda and Steven Epstein are veterinary critical service specialists. Mehrab Hussain is a research associate in the Li Comparative Platelet and Neutrophil Physiology Laboratory. Funding for the UC Davis Veterinary Catastrophic Need Fund allowed this study to fund both diagnostics and treatment of feline burn victims. Funding was also provided by the Center for Companion Animal Health.