New dialysis unit will be lifesaver for pets in Tennessee, Kentucky and beyond

**Members of the media interested in interviewing Dr. Margaret Phillips or Dr. Marc Bercovitch on this topic are encouarged to contact Danielle Martin at 813.335.5917 or

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – Propelled by the memory of her beloved dog, a Nashville-area veterinarian teamed up with a national pet charity and others in the community to successfully raise the money needed for the state’s only dialysis unit for pets, ensuring lifesaving care for countless dogs and cats throughout Tennessee and beyond.

Dr. Margaret Phillips, along with Frankie’s Friends and the Zander Family Foundation, raised more than $60,000 for the machines, which are used to treat a range of serious ailments including kidney failure, heart disease and poisoning. It will be the only dialysis unit for pets in Tennessee, northern Alabama and Kentucky.

“It was really an interesting journey to see all of the people who opened their hearts and gave donations for this project,” said Phillips, whose dog, Sandee, died of heatstroke after a hike in the Tennessee wilderness. “It’s all about helping pets and helping people.”

The unit will include two dialysis machines. One will be named Sandee, for Phillips’ dog. The other will be named Gracie, after a 20-week-old Labrador puppy who belonged to Jeffrey and Elisha Zander, whose family foundation made a generous donation toward the unit.

While there will be other costs associated with the treatment, thanks to this charitable effort, pets in need of dialysis will not be charged for the physical use of the dialysis machines.

Providing access to life-saving veterinary treatments that are not widely available resonated with Frankie’s Friends, a not for profit organization, whose charitable mission is to find cures and save pets with cancer and other life-threatening conditions.  “We are so pleased to be a part of this exciting project,” said Danielle Martin, executive director of Frankie’s Friends. “So many pets will get a second chance at a long and happy life thanks to the generosity of everyone who donated.” 

Frankie’s Friends selected Dr. Marc Bercovitch to administer the dialysis unit. Bercovitch is a clinician at BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital in Franklin, Tenn. He is board-certified in internal medicine and was part of a team in the 1990s that established the first private veterinary dialysis unit in the United States.

Bercovitch said dialysis has been used successfully in veterinary medicine for many years, but is only available to pets in about a dozen places throughout the United States, most of them academic veterinary centers. Bercovitch said it’s frustrating for veterinarians knowing that the technology to save lives exists but is inaccessible to many pet owners.

“We all got into this profession because we want to make a difference,” Bercovitch said. “Being able to bring this technology to middle Tennessee means we won’t have to let pets go because of logistics. It’s phenomenal.”

The drive to establish a dialysis unit began after Phillips’ dog, Sandee, was struck with heatstroke, which caused her kidneys to completely shut down. Dialysis would have given veterinarians the opportunity to continue to provide Sandee aggressive supportive care in the hope that her kidney function would recover.

The incident inspired Phillips to start the fundraising campaign with Frankie’s Friends. Contributions were received from a wide variety of people, including a little girl who asked for donations in lieu of birthday presents and raised more than $70.

The Zander family got involved after their puppy, Gracie, was diagnosed with kidney failure. While Gracie was not a candidate for dialysis, the family was impressed with the care she received from Dr. Bercovitch and decided to make a contribution. Unfortunately, Gracie died after several weeks of care.

“It seemed like the right thing to come out of this situation,” said Jeffrey Zander. “We were pleased to be able to finish off the fundraiser so that middle Tennessee could be a focal point for this level of care.”

The dialysis machines are currently being ordered and are expected to be available for use later in 2017.

“I knew that we would make it happen – it was just a matter of time,” Phillips said. “It’s just wonderful to see so many pet lovers giving back to the community.”