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Administration of 5% human serum albumin in critically ill small animal patients with hypoalbuminemia: 418 dogs and 170 cats (1994–2008)


  • The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to
Dr. Fabio Viganó, Clinica Veterinaria San Giorgio, Via Roma, 54, 20010 San Giorgio su Legnano (MI), Italy. Email: Submitted November 27, 2008; Accepted January 23, 2010.


Objectives – To describe the administration of 5% human serum albumin (HSA) in 588 critically ill hypoalbuminemic dogs and cats, and report outcome to discharge, changes in albumin concentration, and adverse effects during hospitalization.

Design – Retrospective clinical study.

Setting – Private emergency and general veterinary center.

Animals – Client-owned dogs and cats.

Interventions – None.

Measurements and Main Results – The medical records of 588 critically ill hypoalbuminemic animals (418 dogs and 170 cats) were reviewed. All animals had hypoalbuminemia (serum albumin <20 g/L [2.0 mg/dL]) at admission, received an infusion of 5% HSA, and received no other colloid infusion. The HSA solution was administered through a peripheral vein at 2 mL/kg/h for 10 h/d (total volume 20 mL/kg/d) until albumin reached 20 g/L. The number of days of HSA infusion (median and range) was 4 days (2–11 d) for dogs and 3 days (2–7 d) for cats. Three hundred and sixteen dogs (75.6%) survived to discharge; 56 of 418 (13.4%) died in hospital. One hundred and twenty-three cats (72.3%) survived to discharge; 21 of 170 (12.4%) died in hospital. Severe hypersensitivity reactions such as anaphylaxis, angioedema, and urticaria were not noted. Interruption of albumin infusion and specific treatment of reactions were not required in any animal.

Conclusions – In this study, administration of 5% HSA appeared to be safe in a large group of critically ill, hypoalbuminemic dogs and cats. The results should be interpreted with caution due to the retrospective, descriptive nature of the study, the absence of control groups and the lack of follow-up data, as well as the potentially life-threatening complications of HSA administration.