Kidney disease can be a common problem for older dogs and cats, especially those who are in their advanced years. There are typically two ways that kidney disease shows up. The first is chronic kidney disease, which is rather slow to show up and has signs that are not really specific. For instance, a dog or cat might feel rather “off” and show signs that they are sick, but they aren’t sick enough to go to the vet. The second way kidney disease presents itself is with sudden signs. This is a very severe situation in which the dog or cat is suddenly very sick.
What Causes Kidney Failure in Dogs?
Kidney disease, also called renal failure, can be acute or chronic. Acute renal failure happens very quickly, and is usually caused by the following:
- Your dog has just eaten or drunk something poisonous, such as antifreeze. Medications that are meant for humans might also lead to kidney failure in dogs, and so does ingesting any part of the Easter lily plant.
- Your dog has a serious bacterial infection that has suddenly overwhelmed his or her immune system.
- The dog is severely dehydrated, such as a dog that has been left without access to water.
- Your dog has experienced something that can decrease kidney blood flow, such as heat stroke, heart disease, or a surgical procedure.
- The dog is suffering from a urinary obstruction that doesn’t allow his or her kidneys to function properly.
Chronic renal failure, also known as CRF, can develop over time. This typically takes months or years. Your dog might seem to feel sluggish and a little “off” but generally seems healthy. Unfortunately, CRF is typically irreversible, though there are ways to make your dog more comfortable.
What Are the Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Dogs?
When your dog is suffering from kidney failure, the symptoms can be very clear or very mild, depending upon the type of kidney failure that is happening. Here’s what to expect and when to take action:
Acute Kidney Failure
Your dog might strain to urinate, seem physically weak, be uncoordinated, and seem disoriented. He might also begin to vomit, have a complete loss of appetite, and be lethargic to the point of not wanting to do anything – he just doesn’t have the energy.
Chronic Kidney Failure
A dog in chronic kidney failure typically shows symptoms that are not as serious as those of acute kidney failure. He might have decreased or lack of urination, need to urinate during the night, and have bloody urine. You might notice that he has a dull coat, is rather lethargic, has a hunched posture, and perhaps has vomiting or diarrhea. Other symptoms might include bad breath, fluid retention, dehydration, mouth ulcers, anemia, high blood pressure and kidney changes.
How to Diagnose Kidney Failure in Dogs
To diagnose the problem, your vet will run a complete blood profile on your dog, as well as a urinalysis. This will help spot the anemia, abnormal electrolyte levels, and high blood pressure that is common with dogs in renal failure. Your vet might also use an x-ray or ultrasound to look at the size and shape of the kidneys, where there might be some abnormalities. The blood work can reveal certain levels of protein enzymes, creatinine, or blood urea nitrogen, all of which can indicate a problem.
How to Treat Kidney Failure in Dogs
The treatment of kidney failure in dogs depends upon what the cause is and how rapidly the kidney failure is progressing.
1. Treatment for Cute Kidney Failure in Dogs
If you suspect that your dog has acute renal failure, get to the vet or emergency clinic immediately. This is truly a life-threatening situation, and every moment counts. If you are seeing all the symptoms of acute kidney failure in dogs, get it checked out – if you don’t, your dog will likely die. Even with quick treatment, the odds might not be in your dog’s favor. Treatment will be very aggressive and fast in order to preserve kidney function and possibly save your dog’s life.
2. Treatment for Chronic Kidney Failure in Dogs
Dogs with chronic kidney failure might show little signs at first, but those signs will increase over time. Deterioration of the kidneys happens gradually, and eventually your dog will show symptoms. At that point, supportive care can help your dog feel better. Whether the kidney failure is chronic or acute, there are treatments that can help.
3. Treatment for Common Kidney Failure in Dogs
- Fluid Therapy
Since dehydration is a serious concern, your dog will definitely be given fluids. In addition to what the vet gives the dog, you will need to monitor what he eats and drinks at home, and always offer fresh water at all times of day. Body weight will need to be checked on a regular basis to help ensure the dog is not becoming dehydrated.
A lower protein diet might help reduce stress on the kidneys. The diet will be checked numerous times to make sure that the dog isn’t becoming anemic or showing other signs of malnutrition. Several small meals a day might improve the appetite and help your dog eat more.
- Electrolytes, Vitamins, and Fatty Acids
Certain balances must be maintained to keep your dog’s kidneys operating at the best level. This includes supplements if necessary, such as calcium or vitamin D. Water-soluble vitamins, fatty acids, and the use of certain supplements in the water can help ensure that your dog has the proper balance to help the kidneys work.
4. Other Treatments
There are numerous other medical interventions, such as injections of medications and careful monitoring. Some dogs might be eligible for kidney transplants. Speak to your vet about how to help your dog live many more years of a quality life.
To learn more about treating a dog with kidney failure, check out this video:
How Can You Prevent Your Dog from Getting Kidney Disease?
Kidney disease in dogs can happen even if you do all the “right” things. But there are ways to help ensure that the chances of kidney failure are much less. Don’t let your dog have access to things like antifreeze, grapes or raisins, Easter lilies and other plants, and anything else that might cause a problem if ingested. Take your dog to the vet for regular checkups, more frequently as they get older, and monitor the water intake to ensure that your dog is drinking enough. Finally, always be alert for symptoms of kidney failure in dogs.