When Your Dog’s Kidneys Fail
Kidney failure is also referred to as renal failure and can be caused in dogs by a number of diseases that impact the functioning of your pet’s kidneys. Healthy kidneys are work to eliminate toxins, regulate hydration, maintain a normal electrolyte balance and release hormones required to produce red blood cells.
In dogs diagnosed with kidney failure, the kidneys are longer performing their various functions efficiently. There are two different types of kidney failure seen in dogs, chronic kidney failure and acute kidney failure.
How Is Chronic Kidney Failure Diagnosed
There are two basic tests for kidney function: a complete urinalysis and a blood chemistry analysis.
A urinalysis is needed to evaluate kidney function. A low urine specific gravity is the earliest indication of kidney failure. An increase in protein in the urine also indicates decreased kidney function.
A blood biochemistry analysis assesses the function of various internal organs. Measuring the level of two waste products in the blood, namely blood urea nitrogen and blood creatinine , indicates decreased kidney function. Tests to measure the blood levels of other substances such as albumin, globulin, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, and calcium, as well as the red and white blood cell counts are important in order to determine the extent of failure and the best course of treatment.
A recently developed blood test to assess levels of SDMA has been used to determine if early renal failure is occurring. SDMA concentrations increase above the normal reference interval well before serum creatinine becomes elevated. This will help your veterinarian provide treatment for your dog at a much earlier stage in the disease.
“SDMA concentrations increase above the normal reference interval well before serum creatinine becomes elevated.”
A dog diagnosed with low urine specific gravity as well as elevated BUN and CREA is said to be azotemic.
Causes Of Kidney Failure
Any disease that impacts the kidneys can cause kidney failure. These conditions include:
disease in dogs.
From abnormal development and cysts to agenesis there are a number of inherited conditions that can lead to abnormal kidney function.
These can be transmitted by swimming in or drinking contaminated water. This type of infection can cause the kidneys to become inflamed and renal cells to be destroyed.
Also referred to as kidney poisoning, toxicosis can damage the kidneys cells and happens when your dog ingests poisons or drugs . These are just some of the many common household items that should be kept out of the reach of your dogs curious paws.
Any condition that causes the kidneys to stop functioning properly is referred to as kidney or renal disease in dogs, and may vary significantly in severity. While damage is in progress, there is still functional tissue left. Renal failure is far more serious, as the kidneys have stopped working altogether.
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Treating Kidney Failure In Dogs
The treatment of kidney failure varies depending on the underlying cause and the canine patient’s overall condition. Dogs that are severely ill from acute kidney failure may need hospitalization and intensive care to recover. For milder cases, antibiotics, fluids, and other medications given on an outpatient basis can prove effective. Dialysis is even a possibility for a lucky few whose pet parents can afford the high cost of treatment.
In the case of chronic renal failure in dogs, treatment generally focuses on slowing the progression of disease and improving quality of life for the patient. Treatment of anemia, blood pressure alterations, electrolyte disturbances, fluid imbalances, nausea, and appetite changes is typically necessary. Most of these signs are managed through diet changes and medication. Pets can sometimes experience a good quality of life for years after a kidney failure diagnosis.
How To Manage Chronic Kidney Disease In Dogs
Now, kidney failure in dogs can eventually take a dogs life.
When a dog is living with kidney failure, the ultimate goal is to slow down the progression of the disease through diet, alleviate the harsh clinical signs and correct any metabolic abnormalities.
When it comes to managing your dogs chronic renal failure, you as a pet owner will have to control your pets diet by choosing the right dog food.
Additionally, you will have to administer subcutaneous fluid a few times a day, every day to ease your dogs symptoms. Furthermore, your veterinary may prescribe a range of drugs such as anti-inflammatories, anti-emetics and more in order to ease the symptoms of chronic kidney failure in your dog.
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How Long Can I Expect My Dog To Live
The prognosis is quite variable depending on the dog’s response to the initial stage of treatment and your ability to perform the follow-up care. Veterinarians encourage treatment in most situations because many dogs will respond well and maintain a good quality of life.
“Treatment and follow-up care is relatively easy and inexpensive…”
Treatment and follow-up care is relatively easy and inexpensive and extending the length and quality of life for their faithful companion represents the ultimate reward for many clients.
|Contributors: Ernest Ward, DVM Updated by Malcolm Weir, DVM, MSc, MPH|
Treatment For Kidney Failure In Dogs
As with many other conditions, treatment will be determined by your dogs overall health and the underlying cause of their kidney problems.
If your pet is suffering from acute kidney failure, urgent and intensive treatment will be required, often in intensive care at your animal hospital. That said, if spotted early, milder cases of acute kidney failure may be treated with fluids, antibiotics and medications without the need for hospitalization. In some cases dialysis may be recommended to treat acute renal failure in dogs.
When it comes to treating chronic kidney failure, the primarily focus will be on slowing the progression of the disease and improving your dog’s quality of life. Symptoms of chronic kidney disease such as nausea, fluid imbalances, and blood pressure fluctuations may be treated with medications and/or changes to your dog’s regular diet.
Many dogs being treated for chronic kidney failure go on to enjoy a good quality of life for a number of years. In order to help manage your dog’s condition, and improve your dog’s quality of life, specific nutrients, nutritional supplements or a therapeutic diet may be recommended.
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Types Of Kidney Conditions
There are two types of kidney conditions that can affect your dog.
- With acute kidney failure, the kidneys lose function rapidly. This type of kidney disease is most often caused by toxic ingestion or infection.
- Chronic kidney disease happens gradually over time. It can occur in senior dogs as part of the aging process.
What Causes Kidney Failure In Dogs
Kidney problems in dogs can be acute or chronic. Acute kidney failure happens quickly over several days, while chronic kidney failure happens slowly over time.
Causes of Acute Kidney Failure
Acute kidney problems are most frequently attributed to your dog ingesting a toxin. It may be a chemical like antifreeze, household cleaners, or bad food.
Problems also occur due to a urinary obstruction in your petâs body. When blood flow decreases, it leaves your dogâs kidneys less oxygenated and more prone to infection.
Kidney issues may also result from:
- Severe dehydration
Causes of Chronic Kidney Failure
Chronic kidney disease is most common in older dogs, and the exact cause is often difficult to pinpoint because of its slow onset. Early symptoms of chronic kidney disease are easily overlooked or dismissed because they are mild in nature.
Dental disease is a leading cause of chronic kidney failure in older dogs. Bacteria build up on your dogâs teeth and enter the digestive system when eating and drinking. While your dogâs kidneys are designed to filter waste, bacteria can lessen kidney function over time.
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What Causes Chronic Kidney Failure In Dogs
Based on the name, you can infer that chronic kidney failure refers to a much more gradual process where the kidney function declines slowly over a long period of time. Unfortunately, a specific cause tends to be more difficult to pin down than with acute kidney failure.
In some cases, the loss of kidney function is due solely to age-related degenerative changes. Basically, more and more kidney cells wear out over time, leading to decreased overall kidney function. In other cases, genetics, immune-mediated disease, or chronic non-kidney related illnesses can play a role in kidney problems.
Remember I mentioned earlier that every dog is born with extra kidney function? Well, this means that chronic kidney disease can be present for quite a long time before any obvious signs of decreased kidney function become outwardly apparent.
Diagnosing Chronic Kidney Failure
Early stages of chronic kidney disease can be diagnosed with routine yearly blood work and urine tests before clinical symptoms even develop. If your vet suspects kidney failure, they will recommend basic blood work, urinalysis , and blood pressure measurements to help diagnose kidney failure, stage the kidney failure, and discuss proper treatments and supportive care.
Kidney failure is staged in 4 levels, with Stage 1 being the mildest and Stage 4 being the most severe.
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Causes Of Acute Kidney Failure In Dogs
When kidney function suddenly decreases , this is known as acute kidney failure or acute renal failure. This serious condition is most often related to toxins or infections.
Acute kidney failure in dogs can result from dehydration as well as a bacterial infection called leptospirosis which is contracted through the ingestion of contaminated water. Other causes of acute kidney failure in dogs include the ingestion of:
- Grapes and raisins
- Overdose of canine medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and aminoglycoside antibiotics
Watch Out For These Other Symptoms
Here are other indicators of kidney failure in dogs that you should keep an eye on:
- Chemical odor of the breath
- Weakened bones can result in bone fractures
- Itchy skin from calcium and phosphorous depositing in the skin
- Bleeding into the stomach or gut or bruising of the skin
Acute renal failure has some other unique symptoms. Dogs may experience frequent urination or absolutely no urination depending on how their kidneys react to the toxins or underlying condition that is bothering them.
A stiff-legged gait and an arched back is a sign that your dogs kidneys may be painful, which causes them to walk weirdly.
Chronic kidney failures symptoms can cause increased urination, as is bleeding and bruising easily.
Usually, other symptoms will be signs of what exactly is causing the kidney failure to begin with.
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Other Disorders Of The Bladder
Other congenital bladder conditions in dogs include the presence of more than one bladder, an abnormally developed or underdeveloped bladder, failure of the bladder to develop, and a bladder that is turned inside-out. Usually these problems occur along with other abnormalities in the urinary tract. Your veterinarian can diagnose these problems based on a physical examination, observation of your dog while it urinates, and contrast x-rays. Treatment varies depending on the type of problem. Your veterinarian will advise you about the most appropriate treatment for your pet.
First Signs Of Kidney Failure
Kidney failure might be acute or chronic.
- Acute kidney failure develops in a matter of days, usually because thedog ingested a toxic substance such as antifreeze or human medication.
- Chronic kidney failure is the result of underlying medical conditions and affects older dogs.
Surprisingly, dental disease is one of the causes for renal failure in dogs because mouth bacteria enter the bloodstream and attack the organs.
At first, you wont notice any noticeable signs.
However, since the kidneys are struggling to filter the toxins, urine production increases in an attempt to remove as much waste as possible. As a result, Lucky starts to drink more often.
So, the initial symptoms of kidney failure in dogs are excessive drinking and increased urination.
Youll probably notice that your fur baby is making frequent trips to the water bowl or that you have to fill the bowl far more often than before.
Your pooch might also start to have accidents in the night or pee in the house during the day.
Unfortunately, pet owners overlook inappropriate urination. They think its a behavior problem when its a medical one.
Thats why its important to take the dog to the vet if you observe any change in his habits.
Moreover, the symptoms of renal failure do not appear until a large portion of the kidneys has been damaged.
So, when you notice these first signs, its likely that your dog has been ill for quite some time.
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Common Causes Of Kidney Disease In Dogs
Kidney disease is a common problem of older dogs, affecting an estimated 10% of canines in their lifetimes1. There are a number of causes that may affect different age groups and have different consequences, ultimately though, chronic kidney disease or acute kidney injury will always have the same resultone sick pup. The signs of illness in your dog reflect the failure of the kidneys to do their many jobs well enough.Below you will find a brief description of ten common causes of kidney disease. These are the targets of your veterinarians testing:1. Damage to the kidney filters The glomerulus of the kidney is commonly involved in canine kidney disease. Early on, we expect no signs of illness, but since glomerular disease may be caused by infections or cancer, amongst other things, time can make the problems worse. Over time, inflammation, in the glomerulus of the kidney, damages the surrounding kidney tissues, creating the chronic kidney disease that makes your dog feel sick.
Learn more about glomerular disease in dogs.
Learn more about leptospirosis in dogs.
- Pet Poison Helpline 764-7661
Learn 10 signs of cancer in dogs.
Learn more about amyloidosis in dogs.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.References:
What Causes Acute Kidney Failure In Dogs
As the name implies, acute kidney failure comes on suddenly, usually in a matter of days. It is caused by a major injury to the kidney. There are certainly some well-known causes of acute renal failure, but frustratingly, it is not uncommon for veterinarians to be unable to pinpoint the exact cause of the kidney injury.
Some of the well-known causes of acute kidney failure include toxicities, medications, foods, infections, anything that decreases blood flowing through the kidneys, and anything that obstructs the flow of urine out of the body. I will dig into each of these causes in more detail below.
There are several common household products that have the potential to cause acute kidney failure. Most people know that antifreeze is on this list. Rat poison is another unfortunately common toxicity that veterinarians treat. There are several types of rat poison that each work in different ways, but one specific type exerts its deadly effects on the kidneys.
Over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications like ibuprofen and Naproxen may be great at relieving your aches and pains. However, you should not give your dog Advil or any of the other medications on that list. These medications, even at modest doses, can cause kidney failure in dogs.
Also, many doggy NSAIDS are meat flavored. Severe kidney failure can result if a curious pup accidentally gains access to the entire bottle and ingests too many of the tempting tablets.
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Treatment For Kidney Failure
In human medicine, dialysis and kidney transplantation are the main methods of dealing with advanced kidney failure. These methods are also employed in treating dogs but impose heavy financial and time burdens on the pet owner and some stress on the patient who is already stressed by the disease.
Unfortunately, once the diagnosis of kidney failure is made, most patients are so sick that response to treatment is unrewarding and slow. You may need to consider euthanasia in order to prevent the long, slow, and agonizing death that comes from complete renal shutdown.
In very extreme and special circumstances, a kidney transplant may be an animal’s only hope of long term existence. Kidney transplantation is a controversial topic but the science and success rate in cats and dogs has advanced greatly in recent years.
The goal of treatment is to allow the patient to live as close to a normal life as possible under the circumstances. Since the kidneys do not heal or regenerate new and functioning tissue, the remaining functional tissue carries the entire burden normally handled by two healthy kidneys. Intravenous and subcutaneous fluids can be administered for varying lengths of time to try to correct acid-base imbalances.
Image: bigbirdz / via Flickr
What Is Chronic Renal Failure In Dogs
Chronic renal failure , renal insufficiency, and chronic kidney disease are all medical terms used to describe the same condition. It occurs when the kidneys are unable to perform their required tasks at the same level of efficiency as before.
Dogs have two kidneys located on either side of their abdomen, that play a vital role in filtering waste from the body. Additionally, the kidneys serve to regulate fluid, mineral, and electrolyte balance conserve water and protein and play an important role in maintaining blood pressure and red blood cell production by making a hormone called erythropoietin.
Dogs cannot survive without their kidneys, and unfortunately, kidney transplants are yet to be a viable solution. Dialysis is often expensive and is extremely rare in dogs. However, early diagnosis and intervention is key to help maintain your dogs quality of life.
Once diagnosed, CRF is then classified into four different stages based on severity of clinical signs and laboratory values:
Stage I: Clinical signs usually not apparent
Stage II: Some clinical signs noted
Stage III: Many clinical signs noted, and pets often feel sick
Stage IV: Majority of clinical signs noted, pets often present as a crisis
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