Campus helps expand pet dialysis availability

The first life-saving kidney dialysis service for dogs and cats in Southern California - a treatment made possible through pioneering efforts at UC Davis - will host an open house for veterinarians on May 18.

The dialysis services will be provided by UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine professionals in a new facility at the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe. They will treat both temporary and long-term renal failure.

Until now, the only place in California where dogs and cats could receive emergency dialysis treatment was the main UC Davis campus. The new service was established by the UC Veterinary Medical Center - San Diego, a joint venture of the Davis and San Diego campuses.

"The School of Veterinary Medicine handles up to 400 treatments each year in dogs and cats in Davis. The availability of this specialty in Southern California will save pets' lives when time is of the essence," said Bradford Smith, director of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis.

During the May 18 grand opening, the service will introduce its staff to area veterinarians and provide a continuing education course for the veterinarians.

In hemodialysis, a machine serves as an artificial kidney to remove waste products from the blood that the kidney normally filters and excretes on its own. The procedure primarily aids animals suffering from antifreeze poisoning, kidney infections or complications from other diseases.

Ongoing treatments help manage chronic kidney problems, and the process aids in stabilizing patients being considered for kidney transplants.

In 1990, Larry Cowgill, head of the hemodialysis service, pioneered the first hemodialysis program at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Even now, only four such programs exist in the United States. UC Davis is the only veterinary dialysis program operating at two sites.

"While the procedure does not cure damaged kidneys, hemodialysis is life-sustaining while the acute kidney injury heals or as a replacement for permanently damaged kidneys," Cowgill said. "Our goal is to help a pet survive until the animal's own system can return to normal or it is strong enough to undergo treatment for the underlying problem."

Veterinarian Julie Fischer and veterinary technician Paula Thomas make up the core of the San Diego-based dialysis team. Pet owners may request referrals to the dialysis service from their own veterinarians. More information on the service can be obtained by phoning (858) 759-7235.

Veterinarians and animal health technicians can obtain information about the May 18 events by calling (858) 759- 6837.

The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and UC San Diego established the UC Veterinary Medical Center - San Diego in 1998 to enable faculty members from the two institutions to collaborate in teaching and research activities and to offer emerging specialty services in Southern California. In addition to the hemodialysis service, the center also offers an animal-behavior service that began in 1999.

Faculty members affiliated with the center also collaborate with UC San Diego faculty on animal-related health programs and work with San Diego area wildlife organizations to enhance veterinary teaching, research and service programs.

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Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,

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