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?
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
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 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
Is dialysis an option for pets with kidney failure?
Kidney Dialysis: Is it for your Pet?