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The Signs, Symptoms, & Causes of Kidney Failure in Dogs

The Signs, Symptoms, & Causes of Kidney Failure in Dogs

In this blog, our Kinston vets discuss kidney failure in dogs, sharing details about its causes and symptoms, as well as the treatment options that are available. 

Kidney Failure in Dogs

Kidney failure (also called renal failure), could be caused by various conditions that affect the kidneys and any organs that are related. When your pup has healthy kidneys, their kidneys work to remove toxins, regulate hydration, maintain a normal electrolyte balance, and release the hormones that are needed to produce red blood cells. If your pooch is suffering from kidney failure their kidneys aren't performing their functions properly.

The Different Types of Dog Kidney Failure

There are two broad categories of kidney failure in dogs:

  • Acute renal failure - When kidney function suddenly decreases (within hours or days), it's called acute renal failure. Usually, this type of kidney failure is caused by an infection or exposure to toxins.
  • Chronic renal failure - When your dog's kidneys gradually start losing their function (over weeks, months, or years), it’s known as chronic renal failure. Most often chronic kidney failure is caused by degeneration associated with old age. All kidneys have a lifespan although, some dogs experience deterioration faster than others.

The main difference between chronic and acute kidney failure in dogs is that acute kidney failure is often reversible when discovered early and treated intensively, chronic kidney failure can only be managed.

The Causes of Kidney Failure in Dogs

Any disease that impacts a dog's kidneys could cause kidney failure. These conditions can include:

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

The Signs & Symptoms of Dog Kidney Failure

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

The type of kidney failure your dog has, and the extent of their loss of kidney function, the progression of the condition, and the underlying cause can determine whether it's kidney problems or another issue such as diabetes mellitus that are causing your dog's symptoms.

How Kidney Failure in Dogs is 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, it will require immediate and intensive treatment. Usually in the intensive care unit at an animal hospital. If diagnosed early, milder cases of kidney failure might be treated with fluids, antibiotics, and medications on an outpatient schedule. Even though it's costly dialysis may also be effective.

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 the quality of your pup's life. Nausea, fluid imbalances, blood pressure fluctuations and other symptoms will be treated with medications and changes to your dog's diet.

Most of the time 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, and possibly improve your dog's quality of life, your vet might recommend specific nutrients, nutritional supplements, or a therapeutic diet.

Ways You Can Keep Your Dog From Developing Kidney Failure

Acute kidney failure is often caused when dogs consume toxins, tainted foods or foods they shouldn’t ingest, such as grapes or chocolate. To help prevent your dog from developing acute kidney failure, take inventory of your household items and remove potential toxins such as antifreeze, medications and potentially harmful foods out of your dog's reach.

Chronic kidney failure is often age-related and predetermined by genetics, making it much more difficult to prevent. However, regular wellness exams twice a year at your vet's office will help increase the chances of finding any symptoms early so treatment can begin before the condition becomes more serious.

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

If your dog is displaying any signs or symptoms of kidney failure contact our vets at Five Oaks Animal Hospital in Kinston as quickly as possible to schedule an appointment.

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