Veterinary Kidney Dialysis: Can Hemodialysis Help Your Dog?

When your dog’s kidneys fail to do their job, dialysis can step in to remove toxins accumulated in the blood.

In veterinary medicine, hemodialysis is used to buy time for dogs with acute kidney failure. Time is what a dog with acute kidney injury needs.

Things that can cause injury to the kidneys include:

  • over-the-counter medications
  • medication overdose
  • toxins (e.g. anti-freeze or grapes or raisins)
  • infections (e.g. Leptospirosis)

Kidneys that acutely shut down but weren’t fatally damaged may recover to sufficient function if the veterinarians can keep your dog alive. That is where dialysis comes in.

Further information: Is Dialysis an Option for Pets with Kidney Failure?

Veterinary Kidney Dialysis

Acute versus chronic

Chronic kidney disease comes on gradually over months or even years. It is likely to go undetected until about 75% of kidney function is lost. (There is a new, better test that detects these changes early, SDMA) The bottom line is, that by the time you learn about the problem, the chronic decline of the kidneys is irreversible.

With acute kidney failure, on the other hand, the kidneys might have shut down but still able to recover. That is when dialysis can save your dog’s live.

Further information: Kidney Disease in Dogs – Say What? Canine Kidneys and the Associated Verbiage

Dialysis for Dogs
OVC is the first in Canada to offer continuous renal replacement therapy
to help treat acute kidney failure.

What is dialysis?

Dialysis is the process of removing waste products and excess fluid from the body when kidneys are unable to do the job.

The veterinarian inserts a large IV catheter through which your dog’s blood will flow into the machine where a synthetic filter purifies their blood of waste products such a creatinine and urea. In other words, dialysis is renal replacement therapy.

The treatment might last 3 to 5 hours and it is repeated until the kidneys have healed. It is not a sure-fire treatment and it does have potential complications but it can save your dog’s life.


Unfortunately, so far there are only a limited number of veterinary dialysis centers. We are somewhat fortunate because Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph does provide this service. That’s the closest I know about and while it is a half a day drive, at least we know we could get this done if needed.

Labby’s story

Labby was a young Labrador Retriever with curious mouth. His culinary adventures ultimately brought him to a death’s door.

When Labby ended up in an emergency veterinary hospital with vomiting and lethargy, it turned out that he helped himself to all sorts of goodies, including:

  • potato chips
  • a plastic wrapper
  • a bit of garlic
  • and 308 grams of dried currants

Currants and raisins are toxic to dogs and can cause acute kidney failure—which is what happened to Labby. Dialysis saved Labby. That is the type of situation when dialysis can be a life-saving intervention.

Further information: Hemodialysis in a dog with acute renal failure from currant toxicity

Source article:
Is dialysis an option for pets with kidney failure?

Related articles:
Kidney Failure in Dogs: What Happens In The Dog’s Body When The Kidneys Fail To Function Properly?
Canine Kidney Function Screening: Checking Your Dog’s Kidney Function

Further reading:
Kidney Dialysis: Is it for your Pet?

Categories: Acute kidney failureDialysisKidney diseaseRenal replacement therapy

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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