Woman petting kidney transplant recipient Oden on hospital floor (photo courtesy of the Ohio State University)
Ohio Life

Ohio’s First Canine Kidney Transplant

In 1986, the Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital in Columbus performed the procedure to save the life of an 18-month-old dog named Oden.

On Jan. 13, 1986, an 18-month-old, mixed-breed dog named Oden was given a second chance at life, becoming the first canine in Ohio to receive a kidney transplant. According to a United Press International article published in the Feb. 24, 1986, edition of The Delaware Gazette, doctors at the Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital in Columbus performed the procedure after Oden damaged his kidneys by drinking antifreeze.

“Although kidney transplants have been performed on dogs to aid in human-transplantation research, only rarely has the procedure been done in the United States to save a dog’s life,” Dennis Chew, associate professor of veterinary clinical sciences at Ohio State, said in the article. “This is definitely a new phase in the treatment of kidney failure in dogs.”

Oden drank antifreeze containing ethylene glycol, a chemical known to be toxic to kidney cells. Veterinarians kept Oden alive by way of dialysis prior to his receiving a kidney from his littermate Mary Lou, who belonged to a friend of his owner Martha Johnson in their hometown of Gambier. While Oden’s original kidneys were severely damaged by the antifreeze, they were still slightly functional, so doctors opted to leave them in place with the addition of the third healthy kidney from Mary Lou. A Feb. 23, 1986, article by the Associated Press in the Newark Advocate reported that Oden’s life-saving procedure cost $12,000. 

“Luckily, Johnson won’t have to foot the whole bill herself,” the article noted. “Donations will cover about $1,000, and she will pay about $1,500. The balance will be absorbed by the hospital as research and teaching expenses.” 

Upon leaving the hospital the following month, staffers there presented Oden with an “I love Oden” button used by the hospital to raise funds to cover his medical expenses and a bouquet of helium balloons. Dr. Robert Sherding, head of Ohio State University’s department of small-animal medicine, said Oden captured the hearts of hospital staffers.

“Oden has become the mascot of the hospital,” he said in the Associated Press article. “No one has the heart to let him die.”