In this blog, our Fort Pierce vets discuss the causes and treatment options for kidney failure in dogs as well as the signs and symptoms you should be aware of.
Kidney Failure in Dogs
Kidney failure (also called renal failure), can be caused by a variety of conditions that could affect your dog's kidneys and other related organs. When your dog has healthy kidneys they eliminate toxins, regulate hydration, maintain a normal electrolyte balance, and release the required hormones needed to produce red blood cells. If your pup is suffering from kidney failure the kidneys aren't performing their tasks efficiently.
The Types of Dog Kidney Failure
There are two different categories of kidney failure dogs can suffer from:
- Acute renal failure - When there is a sudden decrease in kidney function (within hours or days) it's called acute renal failure. Generally, this form of kidney failure is caused by exposure to toxins or infection.
- Chronic renal failure - When the loss of kidney function is gradual (over weeks, months, or years), it’s known as chronic renal failure. Chronic kidney failure is usually caused by degeneration associated with old age. All kidneys have a lifespan but, some dogs experience deterioration quicker than others.
The main difference between acute and chronic kidney failure in dogs is that acute kidney failure is possibly reversible if it's detected early and treated intensively, where chronic kidney failure can only be managed.
The Causes of Kidney Failure in Dogs
Any disease that impacts the kidneys can lead to kidney failure. These conditions are:
- 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 or drinks in contaminated water, bacterial infections such as leptospirosis can attack their system, making the kidneys inflamed and renal cells die off.
- Toxicosis - When the kidneys are poisoned, it can cause 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).
- Dental disease - When there is a build of bacteria 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 ages, cells can break down and die. This also happens in the kidneys and can lead to kidney disease.
Signs & Symptoms of Dog Kidney FailureIf your dog is experiencing kidney failure you might notice one or more of these symptoms:
- Breath that smells like chemicals
- Significant decrease in appetite
- Significant weight loss
- Pale gums
- Uncoordinated movement, or stumbling
- Increase or decrease in volume of urine
- Blood in urine
- Increase or decrease in water consumption
- Ulcers in the mouth
- Intestinal seizures
The kind of kidney failure your dog is suffering from, the extent of their loss of kidney function, the progression of the condition, and the underlying cause can determine whether it's kidney issues or another problem such as diabetes mellitus that is causing your pup's symptoms.
Treating Kidney Failure in Dogs
As with many other conditions, your dog's treatment for kidney failure will be based on the overall health of your pooch and the underlying cause of their kidney condition. If your dog is suffering from acute kidney failure they require immediate and intensive treatment, usually in the intensive care of your animal hospital. If diagnosed early, milder cases of kidney failure can be treated with fluids, antibiotics, and medications on an outpatient schedule. Dialysis, although costly, can also be effective.
If your dog is diagnosed with chronic kidney failure, your vet will primarily focus on slowing down the progression of the disease and look for 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.
In many cases, 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 may recommend specific nutrients, nutritional supplements, or a therapeutic diet.
Protecting Your Dog From Kidney Failure
Acute kidney failure often develops when your dog consumes 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 house and move potential toxins such as medications, antifreeze, and potentially harmful foods out of your dog's reach.
Chronic kidney failure is usually age-related and predetermined by genetics, making it harder to try and prevent. But, regular wellness exams twice a year at your primary care vet's office will help increase the chances of detecting symptoms early so that treatment can start before their condition becomes more severe.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets.