Kidney Failure in Dogs - Signs & Symptoms

Kidney Failure in Dogs - Signs & Symptoms

Kidney failure (renal failure) in dogs can be caused by underlying health conditions which impact the kidneys and related organs. Here, our Memphis emergency vets share some common signs and symptoms of this potentially life threatening condition.

Kidney (Renal) Failure

Renal failure (commonly called kidney failure), can be caused by a number of conditions that impact the kidneys and other organs. A healthy dog's kidneys work to eliminate toxins, regulate hydration, maintain a normal electrolyte balance and release hormones to produce red blood cells. In dog's experiencing kidney failure the kidneys are no longer performing their function as effectively as they should. 

Types of Kidney Failure in Dogs

There are two broad categories of kidney failure seen in dogs, chronic and acute. 

  • Chronic Renal Failure - Chronic kidney failure is characterized by the gradual loss of kidney function over a period of weeks, months or years. Chronic kidney failure in dogs is typically caused by degeneration of the kidneys associated with aging. Although most dog are unable to fully recover from chronic kidney failure, this condition can often be successfully managed, allowing pets to enjoy a good quality of life for a number of months or years. 
  • Acute Renal Failure - Acute kidney failure is characterized by a suddenly decrease in kidney function over a period of hours or days. This form of kidney failure is typically caused by exposure to toxins or an infection. If diagnosed and treated early, acute kidney failure can often be cured.

Causes of Kidney Failure in Dogs

Any condition that affects the kidneys can lead to renal failure including:

  • Congenital disease - Underlying illnesses and hereditary conditions such as being born without one or both kidneys, and cysts.
  • Bacterial infections - Bacterial infections such as leptospirosis can attack your dog's system, causing the kidneys to become inflamed and renal cells to die off.
  • Toxicosis - Damage to your dog's kidneys can be caused by the accidental ingestion of poisons or toxins.
  • Dental disease - If bacteria builds up on your dog's teeth and gums it could lead to advanced dental disease. That bacteria could then make its way into your pet's blood stream and organs, potentially causing damage to your dog's kidneys, heart and liver.
  • Geriatric degeneration - As your dog ages, cells break down and die. This happens all over the body, including the kidneys where it can lead to kidney disease and renal failure.

Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Dogs

If your dog is suffering from kidney failure you may notice one or more of the following signs:
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pale gums
  • Loss of balance, or stumbling
  • Chemical smell to breath
  • Significant loss of appetite
  • Notable increase or decrease in water consumption
  • Increase or decrease in volume of urine
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Blood in urine
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures

If your dog is showing signs of kidney failure it's time to get your pet to a vet right away. In order to achieve good treatment outcomes it is essential to get an accurate diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible.

Treatment for Kidney Failure in Dogs

As with many other conditions, treatment will be determined by your dog’s overall health and the underlying cause of their kidney problems.

If your pet is suffering from acute kidney failure, urgent and intensive treatment will be required, often in intensive care at your animal hospital. That said, if spotted early, milder cases of acute kidney failure may be treated with fluids, antibiotics and medications without the need for hospitalization. In some cases dialysis may be recommended to treat acute renal failure in dogs.

When it comes to treating chronic kidney failure, the primarily focus will be on slowing the progression of the disease and improving your dog's quality of life. Symptoms of chronic kidney disease such as nausea, fluid imbalances, and blood pressure fluctuations may be treated with medications and/or changes to your dog's regular diet.

Many dogs being treated for chronic kidney failure go on to enjoy a good quality of life for a number of years. In order to help manage your dog's condition, and improve your dog's quality of life, specific nutrients, nutritional supplements or a therapeutic diet may be recommended.

Preventing Kidney Failure in Dogs

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, pay particular attention to the products in your home that are potentially poisonous to your dog. Keep toxic substances such as antifreeze, human medications and potentially harmful foods well out of your dog's reach.

Chronic kidney failure is generally age-related and predetermined by genetics, making it much more difficult to prevent. That said, regular wellness exams twice yearly at your primary care veterinarian's office will help to increase the chances detecting symptoms early so that treatment can begin before the condition becomes more severe.

If your dog is showing signs of kidney failure, contact your vet immediately. If your vet is unavailable contact Animal Emergency Center in Memphis. Our vets offer urgent veterinary care for sick animals on evenings, weekends and major holidays. 

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