Using dialysis to save pets: Innovative treatment yields impressive results

NEW YORK CITY –  When Rockstar arrived at the BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital in Midtown, the 2-year-old Chow Chow was close to death.

His immune system was destroying his own red blood cells, and Rockstar wasn’t responding to the treatment he received at a different hospital. The situation looked bleak.

Rockstar receiving his first therapeutic plasma exchange treatment at BluePearl.

Rockstar receiving his first therapeutic plasma exchange treatment at BluePearl.

The veterinarian team at BluePearl’s hemodialysis center opted to treat the dog with a process called therapeutic plasma exchange, where a machine “cleans” a patient’s blood by removing diseased plasma and replacing it with healthy plasma taken from a donor.

The results were remarkable: after his first two-hour treatment, Rockstar was alert and walking again. A few days later, he was back to his typical, playful self.

“A lot of people don’t know that dialysis is available for pets, just like in human medicine,” said the veterinarian who worked on the case. “But it can be used to treat a variety of conditions and can yield impressive results.”

Dialysis has been used in veterinary medicine for many years, but it was offered only at a few universities and research institutions, which meant it was inaccessible to many pet owners.

Now that’s changing, although there are still relatively few treatment centers around the country. The BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital in Midtown has been offering dialysis for about two years. In that time, they have treated about 40 patients.

The length of treatment varies, depending on the disease: some patients need several weeks, while others require just one session.

Most people associate dialysis with kidney failure. But it can also be used to treat a number of ailments, including heart disease, poisoning, heatstroke and, like Rockstar, immune-related conditions.