Kidney (Renal) Failure
A variety of conditions can cause renal failure, which affects the kidneys and other organs. A healthy dog's kidneys perform essential functions such as eliminating toxins, regulating hydration, maintaining electrolyte balance, and releasing hormones that support red blood cell production. Dogs with kidney failure experience a decrease in the efficiency of their kidney function.
Types of Kidney Failure in Dogs
There are two broad categories of kidney failure seen in dogs, chronic and acute.
- Chronic Renal Failure - Chronic kidney failure is defined by the gradual loss of kidney function over a period of weeks, months, or years. Chronic kidney failure in dogs is usually caused by kidney degeneration associated with aging. Although most dogs do not recover completely from chronic kidney failure, the condition can often be successfully managed, allowing pets to live a normal life for months or years.
- Acute Renal Failure - Acute kidney failure is characterized by a suddenly decrease in kidney function over a period of hours or days. This form of kidney failure is typically caused by exposure to toxins or an infection. If diagnosed and treated early, acute kidney failure can often be cured.
Causes of Kidney Failure in Dogs
Any condition that affects the kidneys can lead to renal failure including:
- Congenital disease - Underlying illnesses and hereditary conditions such as being born without one or both kidneys, and cysts.
- Bacterial infections - Bacterial infections such as leptospirosis can attack your dog's system, causing the kidneys to become inflamed and renal cells to die off.
- Toxicosis - Damage to your dog's kidneys can be caused by the accidental ingestion of poisons or toxins.
- Dental disease - Bacteria on your dog's teeth and gums can cause advanced dental disease. This bacteria could then enter your pet's bloodstream and organs, potentially causing kidney, heart, and liver damage.
- Geriatric degeneration - As your dog ages, cells break down and die. This happens all over the body, including the kidneys where it can lead to kidney disease and renal failure.
Symptoms of Kidney Failure in DogsIf your dog is suffering from kidney failure you may notice one or more of the following signs:
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pale gums
- Loss of balance, or stumbling
- Chemical smell to breath
- Significant loss of appetite
- Notable increase or decrease in water consumption
- Increase or decrease in volume of urine
- Mouth ulcers
- Blood in urine
If your dog is showing symptoms of kidney failure, it's important to take him to the vet as soon as possible. Receiving an accurate diagnosis and starting treatment promptly is essential for achieving positive treatment outcomes.
Treatment for Kidney Failure in Dogs
As with many other conditions, treatment will be determined by your dog’s 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.
The primary objectives in the treatment of chronic kidney failure in dogs are to decelerate the progression of the disease and enhance their overall quality of life. Medication and/or dietary changes can effectively manage symptoms of chronic kidney disease in your dog, such as nausea, fluid imbalances, and changes in blood pressure.
Dogs with chronic kidney failure can still have a good quality of life for many years with proper treatment. To help manage your dog's condition and improve their quality of life, we may recommend specific nutrients, nutritional supplements, or a therapeutic diet.
Preventing Kidney Failure in Dogs
Consuming toxins, tainted foods, or foods that are harmful to them, such as grapes or chocolate, can often lead to dogs experiencing acute kidney failure. Be vigilant about identifying any potentially toxic items in your home that could harm your dog and help prevent the onset of acute kidney failure. Keep poisonous items such as antifreeze, prescription drugs, and potentially harmful foods out of your dog's reach.
Age and genetics play a significant role in the development of chronic kidney failure, making prevention more challenging. Regular wellness exams twice yearly at your primary care veterinarian's office can greatly improve the chances of detecting symptoms early. This allows for prompt treatment before the condition worsens.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.