Your horse suffered a severe tying-up episode, and due to accompanying muscle degeneration your horse now has renal (kidney) complications. Or maybe your horse is experiencing renal dysfunction due to a toxic reaction to medications or from a massive infection. Your veterinarian administered the usual treatments to clear the toxins, but the kidney values remain dangerously high, indicating the kidneys are still unhealthy. Is there anything more you can do to save your horse?

In acute cases such as these, dialysis might succeed where other measures have failed. While it’s an expensive procedure that rivals the cost of some colic and complicated orthopedic surgeries, and is yet not widely offered, it is an option.

Dialysis Defined

"The purpose of dialysis is to remove the waste products that build up in the body and, in that respect, temporarily replace the kidney function," explained Laurent Couetil, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, professor of large animal medicine and equine sports medicine director at Purdue University.

There are three different dialysis procedures: hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and pleural dialysis.

With hemodialysis, a procedure commonly used in humans, the veterinarian places an intravenous (IV) catheter; blood is collected and transferred to a machine that filters toxins from the blood, and the filtered blood is returned to the patient through another vein.

"Hemodialysis has been described in a foal and the technique has also been recently reported in healthy adult horses," Couetil noted. "It’s very involved, very cumbersome. T