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Home > Fluid Therapy > Dialysis



  • When they first receive the CKD diagnosis, many people who are keen to do all they can to help their cat consider dialysis.

  • Unfortunately, ongoing dialysis is not appropriate for cats as it is for humans.

  • It is also only available in a limited number of centres, and is incredibly expensive - it costs up to US$25,000 for 2-3 weeks - so is beyond the reach of most people.

What is Dialysis?                                                                                                  Back to Page Index


The kidneys filter waste products from the blood, and discard them in urine. Damaged CKD kidneys cannot perform this function properly, so waste products build up in the bloodstream and make the patient feel unwell. Dialysis is a method of filtering the blood to remove the waste products so the patient feels better. Normally dialysis has to be performed on an ongoing basis.


There are two main types of dialysis, haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Because of the cost and stress factor, however, neither type is commonly performed on cats, although haemodialysis is sometimes used to keep a seriously ill cat going prior to a kidney transplant, and peritoneal dialysis is occasionally used for cats with acute kidney injury.


A limited number of centres in the USA also offer a method called continous renal replacement therapy (CRRT).


How to choose the right dialysis modality (2012) Langston CL Presentation to the Advanced Renal Therapies Symposium, NYC, discusses the various types of dialysis (go to page 124).

The Advanced Renal Therapies Symposium (2012) Animal Medical Center, NYC has a list of dialysis units throughout the world (see page 140).


Haemodialysis                                                                                                                               Back to Page Index


This is the type of dialysis which people usually think of when they hear the word "dialysis". It is available for cats at a limited number of facilities in the USA, and as in human patients, the process lasts several hours and has to be performed several times a week. It can only be given in hospital and is extremely expensive, with the Animal Medical Center in New York estimating the cost at US$20-25,000 for the first 2-3 weeks.  


The Animal Medical Center in New York City has detailed information about the procedure.

University of California at Davis explains more about haemodialysis.

Veterinary Partner has some information about haemodialysis for pets.

The role of dialysis in veterinary medicine: benefits and possibilities  Eatroff A discusses the benefits of dialysis.

People and pets: common diseases - kidney disease is a video from University of California at Davis which provides an overview of what happens in CKD and shows a dog receiving dialysis. It also features a human CKD patient talking about how CKD feels.

Veterinary hemodialysis: advances in management and technology (2004) Fischer JR, Pantaleo V, Francey T, Cowgill LD The Veterinary Clinics of North American Small Animal Practice 34(4) pp935-967 vi-vii, predicts haemodialysis will gradually become more widely available and will be used for cats with advanced CKD which does not respond to more standard treatment methods (such as sub-Qs).


Peritoneal Dialysis                                                                                                                          Back to Page Index


This entails using the peritoneal cavity as a means of dialysis. The peritoneum is semi-permeable, so urea/BUN, creatinine and phosphorus can pass through it. In peritoneal dialysis, a sterile dialysis solution is introduced into the peritoneal cavity, and this solution then collects waste products and excess electrolytes by means of diffusion. However, it is very hard to maintain sterility and avoid infection using this method, so it is highly unlikely that you will come across this form of treatment in practice; it tends to be reserved for cases of acute kidney injury


The Animal Medical Center in New York City has detailed information about the procedure.

Peritoneal dialysis in cats with acute kidney injury: 22 cases (2001-2006) (2011) Cooper RL & Labato MA Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 25(1) examines the use of peritoneal dialysis in cats with acute kidney injury.

Management of acute renal failure in cats using peritoneal dialysis: a retrospective study of six cases (2003-2007) (2009) Dorval P & Boysen SR Journal of Feline Medicine & Surgery 11(2) pp107-115, found that peritoneal dialysis greatly helped five of the six cats with acute kidney injury.

Peritoneal dialysis in dogs and cats: 27 cases (1976-87) (1989) Crisp MS, Chew DJ, DiBartola SP & Birchard SJ Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 195(9) pp 1262-6 reports on the success rates of peritoneal dialysis in dogs and cats.

University of Kansas - an explanation of peritoneal dialysis in humans.


Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy                                                      Back to Page Index


This is used for acute situations when a cat is critically ill. It provides continous treatment and is usually only provided until the cat is stable once again, at which point the cat would often switch to haemodialysis.


The Animal Medical Center in New York City has detailed information about the procedure.



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This page last updated: 15 March 2012


Links on this page last checked: 10 April 2012