Canine Kidney Disease

dog laying down

Dogs with kidney illness need medical care since it is a major health issue. Renal failure, renal insufficiency, and kidney failure are other terminology frequently used to describe kidney illness. Understanding the many types of kidney illness and the symptoms that are indicative of renal disease is useful for dog owners. Every other system in a dog's body can be impacted by poor kidney function.

The Function of the Kidneys

In vertebrates, such as dogs and humans, the kidneys play a crucial role in health. The kidneys of a dog are situated in the mid-abdomen, close to the back (very similar to the location of human kidneys). A vast network of blood arteries that connects to other crucial organs surrounds the kidneys. The kidneys are intricate organs with several functions. They are in charge of preserving the right pH and electrolyte balance in the blood. Waste is removed from the blood by the kidneys, which also create the urine used for excretion. Additionally, the kidneys create hormones and enzymes that aid in controlling a variety of bodily processes. Together, the kidneys and the heart keep the body functioning. Dogs can live with just one kidney, unlike humans, who cannot survive without any kidneys.

Acute Renal Failure

Acute renal failure is the term used to describe when the kidneys of an otherwise healthy dog abruptly fail. A dog with this type of kidney illness can move from being healthy to critically ill in a matter of days.

Exposure to toxins is the most frequent cause of acute renal failure in dogs. Antifreeze, various over-the-counter human medications, and are common offenders (the form containing the chemical cholecalciferol).

Another probable reason for acute renal failure is kidney infections. If ignored, severe urinary tract infections may progress to kidney infections (although this is not the only cause of kidney infections).

If the kidneys receive less blood flow or oxygen, acute renal failure may also result. Trauma, extreme dehydration, and are a few examples. Acute renal failure may result from some inherited or acquired medical disorders.

Unfortunately, many dogs with acute renal failure won't make it through a few days. But some dogs can make a full recovery if the condition is identified quickly and vigorously treated. Intravenous fluid therapy and supportive medicines are frequently used in treatment. In order to treat renal failure effectively, veterinarians will also attempt to identify the underlying cause of the condition.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney failure (CKF) is another name for chronic kidney disease (CKD). Because it seems like a better way to characterize the condition, many vets have started referring to it as chronic renal disease. Degenerative kidney alterations that impair the kidney's capacity to function normally lead to CKD. The majority of dogs with CKD are older, and it usually develops gradually. Over time, kidney function declines and finally results in death.

Canine chronic renal disease is incurable. There are, however, available treatments that can control the condition, enhancing the dog's quality of life and lengthening survival span by up to several years.

Signs of Kidney Disease in Dogs

Acute renal failure and chronic kidney disease both exhibit many of the same symptoms. The primary distinction is that although the chronic form develops gradually over a longer period of time, the acute form manifests itself rather fast (within a few days) (months to years). The most typical early indications of renal disease in dogs include the following symptoms:


  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss (especially seen in chronic kidney disease)

As kidney disease progresses and more toxins build up in the bloodstream, the above signs tend to worsen. In addition, your dog may experience the following:

  • Dehydration
  • High blood pressure
  • Gastric ulcers
  • Decreased urine output
  • Blood in urine
  • Inability to regulate body temperature
  • Anemia
  • Seizures

These symptoms might get progressively worse over a few days in canines with acute renal failure. Depending on the dog's reaction to therapy, the indications of chronic kidney disease progressively worsen over a period of months to years.

These symptoms can deteriorate quickly over a few days in dogs with acute renal failure. Depending on how well the dog responds to therapy, the symptoms of chronic renal disease may worsen over months or years.

How Kidney Disease in Dogs Is Diagnosed

It is crucial to understand that indications of chronic kidney disease often do not present until the condition has advanced to a certain stage. This is why it's crucial to take your dog to the doctor for regular checkups and to adhere to their advice about routine blood testing. Veterinarians are able to spot subtle changes over time by screening healthy pets. Through routine lab testing, kidney disease may be early identified and treated before your dog becomes ill.

It is critical that you take your dog to the doctor as soon as possible if you see any symptoms of renal disease or any other ailment. The veterinarian will start by asking you questions about your dog and doing a physical exam. Next, your veterinarian probably suggests lab work. The following laboratory tests are frequently advised:

  • Complete blood count (CBC): Evaluates red blood cell and white blood cells, looking for evidence of anemia, infection, and other abnormalities
  • Blood chemistry panel: Measures components in the blood that indicate how well the organs are functioning; blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine are the kidney values
  • Blood electrolytes: Measures the amounts of electrolytes in the blood to determine if they are balanced (one of the main jobs of the kidneys)
  • Urinalysis: Evaluates what is leaving the body through the urine; tests urine concentration, measures protein, and looks for signs of infection or other problems)

The outcomes of these tests often provide your veterinarian with sufficient details to make a kidney disease diagnosis. The BUN and creatinine will be higher in those with renal disease (these chemicals build up in the bloodstream when the kidneys are not able to filter the blood properly). High amounts of blood phosphorus may also exist. The urine is frequently dilute and could include too much protein (an indication that the body is losing protein because the kidneys cannot properly filter). On the CBC, anemia may be noticed because renal illness can occasionally produce this condition.

The severity of the kidney disease's progression may necessitate further testing after it has been diagnosed. Measurement of blood pressure is a crucial test because dogs with renal failure frequently have hypertension. Additionally, your veterinarian could advise abdominal ultrasound or x-rays.

Kidney Disease Treatment for Dogs

A treatment strategy will be created once your veterinarian has a thorough understanding of your dog's condition. As your dog's sickness progresses, the type of treatment will alter depending on the disease's severity. Be aware that to track changes in the severity of the kidney disease, lab tests must be done often. One or more times each day, dogs receiving treatment for acute renal failure may require lab tests. Lab testing are often performed every few weeks to months for canines with chronic renal disease (more or less depending on how the dog is doing). The results of the lab are used to modify the course of treatment.

The mainstay of treating renal illness is fluid therapy. In order to treat acute renal failure, intravenous (IV) fluid diuresis is required. It could also be used when a chronic renal disease is discovered (depending on the lab results and condition of the dog). An IV catheter is used to give at a pace high enough to cleanse the body of toxins. It is carefully avoided to keep the fluid flow rate from harming the dog's heart. For a number of days, dogs with renal illness may require IV diuresis, which requires hospitalization.

Subcutaneous fluids administered by the owner at home are frequently used to sustain canines with chronic renal disease. In order to do this, a needle is inserted beneath the loose skin between the shoulder blades, and a certain volume of fluid is infused. Depending on the degree of renal illness in your dog, this may need to be done every day or only a few times each week. Giving subcutaneous fluids to your dog at home is actually pretty simple. Your veterinarian's clinic will demonstrate how and supply all the tools you need. Giving your dog fluids can keep him hydrated and may also give him extra fluid to assist his kidneys.

The management of chronic renal disease frequently involves therapeutic diets. It is thought that changing the amounts of specific nutrients in the diet might lessen the stress on the kidneys. Diets for the therapeutic kidney are frequently low in salt, calcium, phosphorus, and protein. These diets frequently lack flavor, but there are a number of commercial brands you may try.

There are many uses for both prescription drugs and dietary supplements. When taken with meals, phosphate binders can lower the amount of phosphorous that the body absorbs, easing the strain on the kidneys (which normally filter phosphorous out of the blood). Antacids are used to lessen the excessive stomach acid production (this occurs when the pH is not well-regulated by the kidneys). Antiemetics can occasionally increase appetite while reducing nausea and vomiting, which are frequently brought on by renal illness. ACE inhibitors can assist maintain blood pressure management and reduce protein loss through the kidneys. It could be required to take additional blood pressure drugs. Depending on your dog's needs and your veterinarian's recommendation, specific vitamins and supplements could be suggested.

Due to its high cost and limited availability, dialysis is not routinely utilized. An apparatus that filters blood is used in this therapy. In general, only a few big specialist hospitals offer dialysis. If available, dialysis may be most beneficial for canines with acute renal failure.

A kidney transplant is rare. This expensive, high-risk procedure is only performed by certain veterinary surgeons.

What to Expect When Your Dog Has Kidney Disease

Despite greatest efforts, keep in mind that acute renal failure cannot always be restored. Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of various therapies with your pet's veterinarian. So that you may be as prepared as possible, ask about anticipated results. Although your veterinarian will make every effort to preserve your dog, treatment may not be effective.

Even with the finest care, some dogs with chronic renal illness only survive a few months. This is true even though some of these dogs can live for years with proper care. Keep in touch with your vet regarding your dog's symptoms at home. Make careful to schedule all suggested rechecks. Be adaptable, upbeat, and practical at the same time.

The majority of dogs eventually stop responding to medication and are very ill. Many owners now opt for compassionate euthanasia to put an end to misery.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


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