Kidney Failure in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms & Treatments

Here, our South Wilton Veterinary Group vets in South Wilton walk you through the causes, symptoms and treatments for kidney failure in dogs as well as what you can do to identify this condition in your pup.

What is kidney failure in dogs?

Renal failure, also called kidney failure, can be caused by a number of different conditions that affect the kidneys among other organs. Your dogs kidneys, when they're healthy, work to cleanse their body of toxins, maintain a normal balance of electrolytes in their body, release hormones, and regulate hydration. If your dog experiences kidney failure, their kidneys are no longer performing their proper function.

Are there different types of kidney failure in dogs?

There are two broad categories of kidney failure seen in dogs:

  • Chronic renal failure - When the loss of kidney function is gradual (over weeks, months or years), it’s referred to as chronic renal failure. Chronic kidney failure is typically caused by degeneration associated with old age. All kidneys have a lifespan however, some dogs’ experience deterioration faster than others.
  • Acute renal failure - When kidney function suddenly decreases (within hours or days), this is known as acute renal failure. Typically this form of kidney failure is caused by an infection or exposure to toxins.

The major difference between these two kinds of kidney failure is that it's acute version is likely reversible if caught and treated early, while chronic kidney failure can't eb reversed, only managed.

What causes kidney failure in dogs?

Any disease which affects dogs' kidneys can cause kidney failure. Some of these diseases and conditions can include:

  • Bacterial infections - If your dog swims or drinks in contaminated water, bacterial infections such as leptospirosis can attack their system, causing the kidneys to become inflamed and renal cells to die off.
  • Toxicosis - When the kidneys are poisoned, this can lead to cell damage within the kidneys. It can happen when your dog consumes drugs or poisons (such as foods or substances that are toxic to them).
  • Dental disease - When bacteria build up on the teeth and gums, this can lead to advanced dental disease. The bacteria can enter the blood stream and attack multiple organs, causing irreversible damage to the kidneys in addition to the heart and liver.
  • Geriatric degeneration - As your dog ages, cells can break down and die. This also happens in the kidneys and can lead to kidney disease.
  • Congenital disease - This category can include underlying illnesses and hereditary conditions - everything from agenesis (being born without one or both kidneys) to cysts.

Symptoms of kidney failure

If your dog is suffering from kidney failure you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
  • Intestinal seizures
  • Significant weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Breath that smells like chemicals
  • Significant decrease in appetite
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Pale gums
  • Uncoordinated movement, or stumbling
  • Increase or decrease in water consumption
  • Increase or decrease in volume of urine
  • Blood in urine
  • Lethargy

The type of kidney failure being experienced by your dog as well as the amount of function they have lost, the underlying cause and the conditions progression will indicate to your vet whether or not your dog is experiencing kidney issues or another condition such as diabetes mellitus which have similar symptoms. 

How is kidney failure in dogs treated?

As with many other conditions, your dog's treatment for kidney failure will be determined by your pet’s overall health and the underlying cause of their kidney problems. If your dog suffers from acute kidney failure, immediate and intensive treatment will be required. Typically in the intensive care at your animal hospital. 

If your dog is diagnosed with chronic kidney failure, your vet will primarily focus on slowing down the disease’s progression and looking at ways to improve quality of life for the your pup. Nausea, fluid imbalances, blood pressure fluctuations and other symptoms will be treated with medications and changes to your dog's diet.

In many cases dogs being treated for kidney failure can go on to enjoy a good quality of life for years. Your vet may recommend specific nutrients, nutritional supplements or a therapeutic diet to help manage your dog's condition.

Can I prevent my dog from suffering kidney failure?

Acute kidney failure is often caused by the ingestion of toxins or food which is harmful to your pup like chocolate or grapes. To help prevent your dog from consuming harmful toxins, take stock of what is in your house which could hurt your dog and keep them out of your pup's reach.

Chronic kidney failure is most often age-related as is determined by your pooch's genetics. This makes is very difficult to try and prevent. Regular wellness exams twice a year as your dog ages will help increase the chance that your vet spots this condition early so they can begin treatment before the condition progresses very far.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets.

Do you suspect that your dog is suffering from kidney failure? Contact your vet as soon as possible for assistance. Our veterinary team in Fairfield County have experience treating a wide range of conditions, including kidney failure. Contact us today.

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