VCA Veterinary Specialty Center of Seattle

Hemodialysis Information


Hemodialysis is a procedure which enables the removal metabolic solute and fluid waste from the blood. The dialysis machine pumps blood through an extracorporeal circuit where it passes through a semi-permeable membrane called a dialyzer. Dissolved solutes like urea and other toxins, diffuse through the dialyzer membrane and out of the blood. The purified blood is then returned back to the patient. The duration of the dialysis treatment and amount of toxin removed is tailored to each patient and the severity of the patient's disease process.


Applications of Hemodialysis

Hemodialysis provides a new standard of care for a variety of diseases and clinical conditions for which there are no effective medical alternatives, including:

• Severe acute or chronic renal failure
• Acute poisoning
• Severe overhydration
• Severe electrolyte derangements
• Severe acid-base disturbances
• Conditioning for kidney transplantation


Acute uremia is the most common indication for hemodialysis in dogs and cats. Hemodialyis should be considered when the clinical consequences of acute uremia cannot be effectively managed with medical therapy alone. Common reasons for dialysis referral include leptospirosis, pyelonephritis, pre-operative stabilization of ureteral obstruction, ischemic injury, acute renal failure from systemic disease and acute uremia of unknown cause. Clear indications to start dialysis include diuretic unresponsive oliguria/anuria, and/or life-threatening hyperkalemia or volume overload. Relative indications include no response to fluid therapy for 24 hours or severe azotemia (BUN >100 mg/dl; creatinine >10mg/dl). 

Toxin Exposure 
Hemodialysis is also used in the management of some acute toxin exposures if the toxic compound is readily dialyzable. Dialysis can hasten the elimination of the toxin or its metabolites. Hemodialysis has been used in the management of a number of common poisonings including: ethylene glycol, methanol, salicylate, phenobarbital, acetaminophen, theophylline, aminoglycosides and tricyclic antidepressants. We encourage referral for ethylene glycol within the first 12 hours of ingestion. Hemoperfusion enables removal of large protein-bound molecules by passing the patients blood through a charcoal filter. This process is particularly useful for the removal of NSAIDS and other toxins that cannot be cleared with a conventional dialyzer.

Chronic Dialysis

Chronic dialysis is also effective for animals with chronic, end stage renal disease that is no longer responsive to fluid diuresis, but is less commonly performed in veterinary patients.

Referral for dialysis

Spare the jugular veins. The blood flow rates required to perform hemodialysis require placement of a large-gauge jugular catheters. Dogs and cats have limited options for vascular access and the jugular veins should be protected at all cost. Jugular venipuncture and jugular catheters should be avoided in all patients for which hemodialyisis remains an option.

Hemodialysis is an emotionally and financially intensive therapy with no guarantee of a successful outcome. While hemodialysis is an outstanding bridging mechanism to maintain the patient during the healing phase of acute renal injury, the clients must understand that dialysis does not 'fix'� damaged kidneys. It is difficult to determine at the onset how long therapy must continue to allow a patient's tubular function to resume. In general, with severe acute tubular necrosis, clients should financially and emotionally be prepared to undertake 2-4 weeks of dialytic therapy. The client can anticipate spending $10,000-$15,000 for 3 weeks of therapy. Many patients, who were initially critically ill, will become dialysis outpatients after several days of therapy. Not only does this eliminate hospitalization costs, but also significantly improves the patients quality of life. 

In the event of acute toxin ingestion, one or two treatments are required to remove the toxin from the bloodstream. Clients should expect $2000 to $3000 for the removal of the toxin.
Please call us early in the course of patient management 

DVM Dialysis Referral Summary Sheet - please fill out this sheet and return to VSC via fax

We encourage consultation as soon as you suspect a patient might benefit from dialysis; delay in instituting therapy for a pet with acute renal failure can jeopardize a successful outcome. If you suspect a patient might be a candidate for dialysis or have any questions, please contact Dr. Linda Barton, Amanda Adams, or Adriane Evans at (425) 697-6106.


General Practice

We have over 600 animal hospitals in 41 states and 4 Canadian provinces that are staffed by more than 3,000 fully-qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 400 being board-certified specialists.

The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments such as wellness, spay/neuter, advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), internal medicine, oncology, ophthalmology, dermatology, cardiology, neurology, boarding, and grooming. Services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately 425-697-6106

VCA Veterinary Specialty Center of Seattle is here for you and your pet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No matter what the time of day or night we have a veterinarian and vet techs here to answer your questions and provide you and your pet with care in an emergency situation. 

Our emergency service is designed to be an extension of the services provided by your primary care veterinarian. When your vet is not available, our doctors and nursing staff are here to provide the emergency care your pet needs. In addition to emergency services, we are able to provide intensive care for critically ill pets that have been referred by primary care veterinarians.

Many patients are treated as outpatients. Should your pet require ongoing care, we may recommend that you return to your primary care veterinarian when the day practice opens. For unstable patients in need of further evaluation, arrangements can be made for continued hospitalization and when needed, evaluation by one of our specialists.

Please click here to download a copy of our Pet Emergency Handbook