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Kidney Failure (Renal Failure) in Dogs

Kidney Failure (Renal Failure) in Dogs

There are a handful of ways dogs can develop kidney failure (renal failure). Here, our Gold Canyon vets talk about the causes and symptoms of kidney failure in dogs and how they can be treated. 

Dog Kidney (Renal) Failure

Kidney failure (also called renal failure), can be caused by various conditions that affect the health and functioning of a dog's kidneys and related organs.

If your pup has healthy kidneys, they work to eliminate toxins, regulate hydration, maintain a normal electrolyte balance, and release hormones needed to produce red blood cells. Although, when dogs are experiencing kidney failure, the kidneys are no longer performing their function efficiently.

Types of Dog Kidney Failure

There are two broad categories of kidney failure in dogs and they are:

  • 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.
  • 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.

When it comes to kidney failure in dogs, the main difference between the acute and chronic conditions is that while acute kidney failure is often reversible if diagnosed early and treated intensively, chronic kidney failure can only be managed, not reversed.

Causes of Dog Kidney Failure

Any disease that affects the kidneys can result in their failure. These conditions can include:

  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Bacterial infections - If your dog swims in or drinks contaminated water, bacterial infections such as leptospirosis can attack their system, causing the kidneys to become inflamed and renal cells to die off.
  • Dental disease - When bacteria builds up on the teeth and gums, it can cause advanced dental disease. The bacteria can enter the bloodstream and attack multiple organs, causing irreversible damage to the kidneys as well as the heart and liver.

Signs & Symptoms of Renal Failure in Dogs

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

Whether your dog's kidney failure is directly related to the health of the kidneys or is being caused by an underlying condition, can determine the type of kidney failure your dog is experiencing, the extent of loss of function in the kidneys, and the progression of the condition.

Treating Dogs With Kidney Failure

The treatments used for your dog's kidney failure will be determined by your pet’s overall health and the underlying source of their kidney problems.

If your dog is suffering from acute kidney failure, they will need immediate and intensive treatment, often in the intensive care at your animal hospital. If detected early enough, milder cases of kidney failure might be treatable with fluids, antibiotics, and medications on an outpatient schedule. Dialysis (although costly) may be an effective way to treat dogs with acute kidney failure.

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

Oftentimes, dogs being treated for kidney failure can go on to enjoy a good quality of life for years (some indications are up to four years). To help manage your dog's condition, your vet may recommend specific nutrients, nutritional supplements, or a therapeutic diet.

How To Prevent Renal Failure In Dogs

Acute kidney failure often develops when dogs accidentally ingest toxins, tainted foods, or foods they shouldn’t consume, such as grapes or chocolate. To help prevent your dog from developing acute kidney failure you need to keep potential toxins such as antifreeze, medications, and potentially harmful foods out of your canine companion's reach.

Chronic kidney failure is often age-related and predetermined by genetics, making it much more difficult to try and prevent. That said, annual wellness exams at your vet's office will help to increase the chances of spotting symptoms early so treatment can start before symptoms become more serious.

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.

Contact our Gold Canyon vets as quickly as possible if your dog is showing signs of kidney failure.

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