Kidney Failure in Dogs

Kidney Failure in Dogs

Kidney failure is essentially a result of kidney disease, or renal disease if you want to be technical. It is commonly seen in dogs, especially as they get older. In acute kidney disease due to toxicity, the signs of kidney failure in dogs typically come on quickly and severely. In chronic kidney disease, the onset is usually really slow. It may just seem like they are under the weather. The cause of kidney failure in dogs will tell you whether it is acute or chronic.

The Causes of Kidney Failure in Dogs


There are a variety of causes of kidney disease and kidney failure in canines. The risk factors include:

  • aging
  • fungal, bacterial or viral infection
  • cancer
  • parasites
  • inflammation
  • trauma
  • autoimmune disease
  • toxic reactions
  • genetic disorders

While these are not the only causes, it is a basis to go by in the beginning.

Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Dogs

Dogs that have kidney failure will likely show a variety of different clinical signs. Some of these signs may not be very specific to the condition, such as pancreatic disease or liver disorders, or other disorders that don’t involve the kidneys.

Other signs might include:

  • an increase in thirst
  • an increase in urination
  • a decrease in urination
  • no urination at all
  • blood in the urine
  • nausea and vomiting
  • decrease in appetite
  • weight loss
  • diarrhea
  • lethargy
  • poor posture
  • poor coat quality

These are the signs that may be visible to you, but once you get in to see your vet, other signs may include:

  • dehydration
  • anemia
  • irregular kidney size
  • ulcers
  • bad breath
  • swollen limbs
  • enlarged abdominal area
  • high blood pressure
  • retinal changes
  • soft bones

Diagnosing Kidney Failure in Dogs

Diagnosing kidney failure in dogs starts with diagnosing kidney disease. There are blood tests that can be done to determine whether or not they have kidney disease, and how severe the case is. Urinalysis and other types of imagine may also be done to determine how severe the condition is. They will start by running a panel that checks for serum urea nitrogen, creatinine, and phosphorus levels in the blood.

In the urinalysis they will test for urine specific gravity, protein and sediment in the urine. They will also run a CBC, or complete blood count, to rule out infection or anemia.

Treatment Options

Once your dog has been diagnosed with kidney failure, they will then need to start treatment. In cases of kidney failure, they will typically start by giving IV fluid therapy. This is the initial treatment plan and it helps to rehydrate the body. They may even introduce electrolytes through the fluid if they are off balance.

Nutrition is also really important when it comes to treatment of kidney failure. Once they are no longer dehydrated, they will likely want to eat because they won’t be as nauseous. The type of food that you give them is really important. Look for a high quality diet that consists of a lower amount of protein. This will limit how much the kidneys have to work. If your dog is in serious condition, however, a feeding tube may be required for them to get proper nutrition.

Treating the underlying cause of the kidney failure is also important. Your veterinarian will typically give them an antibiotic to get rid of any possible infection, and they may even recommend kidney dialysis. This is something that is not available through all veterinary clinics. Talk to your vet to see if this is an option that is available to your dog, or even if it is something that he needs.

What About Kidney Transplants?

Kidney transplants are available for pets, but it is something that can be very expensive and it is never a guarantee that it is going to effectively save your pet’s life. If you are worried about the level of renal failure in your dog, and this is something that you are interested in learning more about, talk to your veterinarian. They will be able to discuss the risks and benefits of this extreme procedure and help you to determine if it is right for your pup.

As you can see, kidney failure in dogs is very serious. It is something that doesn’t often have a good outcome, but if you catch it early on and get to the bottom root cause of the condition, the chances are a lot better that they will be able to recover. Even if they cannot make a full recovery, treatment options can often times lengthen their lifespan and give them a better quality of life. Don’t ignore the signs and symptoms.



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I've been a dog lover since the day I was born but it's the current four legged love of my life, Phoebe who inspired me to create the Munch.Zone.

We moved together from Israel to New York in 2013, love hiking together, and never pass up a trip to the dog park. Watching her over the years sparked so many questions about dog behavior and health needs, and it wasn't always easy to find answers. Thus, the Munch.Zone was born.

On any given day you'll find me watching Netflix originals, eating popcorn, and thinking about how to get into house flipping.

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