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Kidney Failure in Dogs

Chronic and acute kidney failure are serious health problems commonly seen in dogs. Here, you will learn about the differences between chronic and acute kidney failure in dogs, the signs to watch for and how these conditions are treated.

What is kidney failure in dogs?

Kidney failure, also known as renal failure, is caused by a variety of diseases that affect the kidneys and other organs. A healthy kidney regulates hydration, maintains a normal electrolyte balance, releases hormones required for red blood cell production, and eliminates toxins.

Kidney failure occurs when the kidneys can no longer function properly. There are two types of this condition in dogs:

Chronic Renal Failure

Chronic renal failure happens when the kidneys gradually lose function (over a period of weeks, months, or years). It is most commonly caused by degeneration associated with old age. While all kidneys have a lifespan, some dogs' kidneys may deteriorate faster than others.

Acute Renal Failure

Kidney function can deteriorate rapidly in a matter of mere hours or days. This is referred to as acute renal failure, and it is usually caused by consuming toxins or contracting infections.

Chronic renal failure differs from acute renal failure in that acute kidney failure can be reversed if treated early and aggressively, whereas chronic kidney failure can only be managed.

What causes kidney failure in dogs?

Any disease that affects the kidneys can cause them to fail, such as:

Congenital Disease: This category includes hereditary conditions and underlying illnesses such as cysts and agenesis (being born missing one or both kidneys).

Dental Disease: Bacterial buildup on teeth and gums can lead to advanced dental disease. The bacteria agglomerate here before entering the bloodstream and attacking multiple organs, causing irreversible damage to the kidneys, as well as the liver and heart.

Bacterial Infections: Drinking or swimming in contaminated water puts the body at risk of bacterial infections such as leptospirosis. This can result in inflamed kidneys and the death of renal cells.

Toxicosis: When the kidneys are poisoned, the cells within the kidneys can be damaged. This can occur if your dog ingests drugs or poisons (including substances or foods that are toxic to them).

Geriatric Degeneration: As your dog ages, the cells in their kidneys may break down and die, resulting in symptoms of kidney disease in dogs.

What are the signs of kidney failure in dogs?

Watch for these common symptoms of kidney failure:

  • Lethargy
  • Significant weight loss
  • Pale gums
  • Breath that smells like chemicals
  • Significant decrease in appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Increase or decrease in water intake
  • Increase or decrease in urine volume
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Drunken behavior or uncoordinated movement such as stumbling
  • Blood in urine
  • Intestinal seizures

A few factors, such as the type of kidney failure your dog may be experiencing, the extent of kidney function loss, the progression of the condition, and its underlying causes, can indicate whether kidney problems or other issues, such as diabetes mellitus, are causing the symptoms.

How is kidney failure in dogs treated?

The condition and underlying cause of your dog's kidney issues will determine treatment, just as it does for many other conditions. Acute kidney failure can cause severe illness in dogs. They may need to be admitted to a hospital for intensive care.

Outpatient antibiotics, fluids, and medications may be used to treat milder cases. Dialysis, while expensive, can also be effective.

Veterinarians typically treat chronic kidney failure by taking measures to help slow the disease's progression and improve the patient's quality of life. Fluid imbalances, nausea, blood pressure fluctuations, and other symptoms will be treated, usually with dietary and medication changes.

After being diagnosed with kidney failure, pets can live a normal life for years (in some cases, up to four years). To manage the condition, your veterinarian may also advise you to follow a therapeutic diet, take nutritional supplements, or supplement with specific nutrients. In certain cases, your dog may be referred to a board certified internal medicine vet near you (veterinary internist).

How can I prevent my dog from suffering kidney failure?

Because acute kidney failure is frequently caused by ingesting tainted foods, foods they should not eat (including grapes), or interactions with toxins, dog owners can often prevent this condition.

Dog Proof Your Home: Examine your home through your dog's eyes, and remove potential toxins like ethylene glycol-based antifreeze (which is toxic to dogs), and keep medications and other dangerous-for-dog foods or substances out of reach of their inquisitive nose.

Oral Health Care: Taking your dog for regular dental cleanings and exams can help to prevent the buildup of harmful plaque and bacteria in your dog's mouth, which could spread to organs throughout the body.

Routine Checkups: Unfortunately, chronic kidney failure is frequently age-related and genetically predetermined. Bringing your dog in for regular wellness checkups, on the other hand, increases the likelihood of detecting these issues early. Your veterinarian may then be able to devise a treatment plan.

Kidney failure can be diagnosed and treated with the help of your veterinarian. If you have concerns about your dog's health contact your veterinarian right away.

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. 

Is your dog showing signs of kidney failure? Contact Guilford-Jamestown Veterinary Hospital right away. Our Greensboro vets are here to help.

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