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UC Davis’ Multiple Locations Assist Dog on Dialysis

August 4, 2016

Sundance receives regular dialysis treatments at UC Davis.

Sundance receives regular dialysis treatments at UC Davis.

"Case of the Month" - August 2016

In May, Sundance, a 5-year-old female golden retriever, was experiencing intermittent vomiting and a continually decreasing appetite. Her dedicated owner, Landon, took her to the veterinarian, who suspected Sundance to have an acute kidney disease of unknown origin. After some research, Landon discovered that the UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego (UCVMC-SD)—a satellite facility of the UC Davis veterinary hospital—had a tremendous amount of experience in renal medicine, and was one of very few places on the west coast that offers hemodialysis treatments for animals. So Landon and Sundance made the drive to San Diego from their home in Los Angeles.

Once at UCVMC-SD, Landon and Sundance met with Dr. Larry Cowgill, who has been practicing renal medicine for 40 years and is considered a pioneer in the specialty. Along with Dr. Sheri Ross and the rest of the UCVMC-SD team, Dr. Cowgill observed Sundance’s kidney disease was extensive, but there remained the faint possibility her illness could repair to some extent in time.

It was suspected that Sundance was poisoned by an ethylene glycol-based antifreeze (propylene glycol-based antifreeze is considerably less toxic and may not cause such severe bodily harm). Antifreeze has a sweet flavor to animals, who will quickly ingest it if given access. Once ingested, the toxicity of ethylene glycol-based antifreeze is swift and devastating – it can cause acute kidney failure resulting in death within 72 hours if not treated properly. Even when treated, it can produce serious damage to the kidneys which most often does not resolve.

A two- to three-week course of hemodialysis was recommended for Sundance in hopes of facilitating the recovery of some kidney function to put Sundance at a lower stage of chronic kidney disease (CKD), with the possibility of the treatments becoming permanent if the initial rounds did not clear her condition. Sundance started her first dialysis treatment the following morning.

Over the course of the next two weeks, Sundance underwent several dialysis treatments on an every other day basis. She was also given medications and put on a special kidney diet to help protect her remaining kidney function and also minimize the number of medications needed to keep her electrolytes in balance.

She responded well to the treatments, with marked improvements in her condition after every round, but it was ultimately determined that the kidney damage was too severe in order for her to maintain a good quality of life on her own without dialysis. Therefore, like many human patients with CKD, Sundance was placed on permanent dialysis, requiring three sessions per week. As long as her treatments are kept up, Sundance feels great and is able to live a normal life and pursue her normal activities.

Some of Sundance’s favorite activities are hiking and camping. While planning a recent camping trip to Northern California, Landon was concerned about being so far away from Sundance’s treatment center. Luckily, he was able to avail Sundance of the dialysis facilities at the UC Davis veterinary hospital. Since Dr. Cowgill splits his time between the UCVMC-SD and UC Davis (and Dr. Carrie Palm performs dialysis treatments at UC Davis, as well), it was an easy transition for Sundance to receive her treatments in Davis while she and Landon camped in nearby Lake Tahoe.

“Going to Davis from Lake Tahoe was actually closer than going to San Diego from where we live in Los Angeles,” said Landon. “I was so glad we didn’t have to give up our camping trip, because Sundance enjoys the outdoors so much.”

Landon reports that Sundance is her old self again. She runs and plays just as she used to, and as long as her dialysis treatments are maintained on a regular basis, she is able to live a fulfilling life.

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About the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
The William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis—a unit of the #1 world ranked School of Veterinary Medicine—provides state-of-the-art clinical care while serving as the primary clinical teaching experience for DVM students and post graduate veterinarian residents. The VMTH treats more than 50,000 animals a year, ranging from cats and dogs to horses, cows and exotic species. To learn more about the VMTH, please go to Timely news updates can be received on its Facebook ( and Twitter ( pages.

Media Contact:
Rob Warren
VMTH Communications & Marketing Officer