Kidney failure is a common problem in both cats and dogs usually associated with old age. It is a progressive and degenerative disease normally although there is an acute form. It is not common to catch the disease in the acute form. Other names for this disease process are Dog Kidney Failure, Kidney Disease, Renal Disease or Renal Insufficiency.
This article is about renal disease in dogs, but if you’re looking for other wellness articles, you might consider learning more about getting B12 shots for your dog to boost their energy and general well-being.
How Kidneys Work in Dogs
Kidneys are organized into nephrons. There are thousands of nephrons contained in the kidney. In the healthy kidney, some of these nephrons are in use while others are held in reserve. As the nephrons in use age or are destroyed, the ones in reserve step up. The problem comes when this capacity is overdrawn. When 2/3 of the nephrons are destroyed, you will see symptoms of kidney failure in dogs. When 3/4 of the kidneys are destroyed, you will get a rise in creatinine levels.
The function of the kidneys is basically as a filter. They keep certain necessary substances in the body while getting rid of harmful substances. These substances include salt and water, with consequences on blood pressure. In other words, the kidneys can participate in the control of blood pressure by either getting rid of or retaining salt and water.
Causes of Kidney Failure in Dogs
There are many things that can cause renal insufficiency including birth defects, bacteria, high blood pressure, immune system disorders and poisons. The nature of the disease to become chronic makes it difficult to pinpoint the cause of the disease because by the time it is diagnosed, the cause may no longer be long gone.
Signs of Kidney Failure in Dogs
Kidney failure in dogs symptoms and signs depend on the stage of the disease. Early stages usually have subtle and intermittent symptoms that may be difficult to spot. Most common signs are drinking a lot of water and urinating a lot. Other symptoms may include a loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, less physical activity and poor coat.
Diagnosis of Dog Kidney Failure
Your local veterinarian will look at history, symptoms, urinalysis, blood tests, X-rays or ultrasound. Urinalysis is very important and can show if the kidneys are able to concentrate urine and filter out the right substances while keeping other substances in. Ultrasound can show images of the kidneys to local veterinarians who are trained to read the results. You can get an ultrasound at your local veterinarian’s or you may need to go to an animal hospital. It can reveal if the kidneys are enlarged.
Treating Kidney Failure in Dogs
There is no cure for renal failure. The process can be managed with the help of an animal hospital or local veterinarians and includes intravenous medications, fluids, diet changes and periodic check-ups. The exact treatment plan will be created by your local veterinarian especially for your dog and his or her specific needs. If the disease is caught earlier and there is less damage a more conservative approach may be best. On the other hand, if the dog is in a more advanced, chronic stage, a more aggressive approach may be required.
Changing the diet is often recommended. There are a number of specially formulated commercial diets for dogs with renal problems.
Final Thoughts on Kidney Disease in Dogs
Even though kidney failure in dogs is a serious and life-threatening condition, it can be managed and your dog can live months or even years after diagnosis.