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Everything you need to know about kidney disease in dogs

By G. John Cole Content Writer

Updated on the

Kidney disease in dogs, also known as renal disease, occurs when the kidneys stop working properly. The kidneys detoxify your dog’s blood, and regulate blood pressure and blood acidity levels. This is why it’s important to look out for kidney problems in dogs

The kidneys work by filtering toxins from the blood. Your dog can then pass the toxins healthily in his urine. His kidneys also regulate water loss and metabolism. Kidney disease can be a serious problem in itself, or a symptom of another issue.

The process of kidney disease in dogs

Healthy kidneys make highly concentrated urine,” writes veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker, “which means large amounts of toxins are being processed and excreted in a relatively small amount of water.

“A diseased kidney, on the other hand, requires an ever-increasing amount of water to handle the same amount of toxins.”

Your dog then grows more and more thirsty, drinking more water to deal with the toxins. Eventually it becomes impossible for him to keep up, and his kidneys go into ‘renal failure.’

Acute kidney disease in dogs

Acute kidney disease refers to an issue that is a complication of something else. For example, cancer or kidney stones may cause acute kidney disease.

Your dog’s vet will try to treat the underlying condition, as well as his kidney disease symptoms.

Chronic kidney disease in dogs

Kidney or renal disease is called ‘chronic’ when it is irreversible. Usually, chronic kidney disease is primarily a problem with the kidneys. Sometimes, it happens when acute kidney disease (caused by something else) gets worse.

Chronic kidney disease gets worse over time, and it may take a while to even notice it is happening. It cannot be cured, but it can be treated and slowed, especially if it is caught early.

Causes of kidney disease in dogs

Kidney infection in dogs can be caused by bacteria, such as from pyelonephritis, which is a urinary tract infection. Kidney failure can also be caused by cancer, trauma, dehydration, or heat stroke.

Most commonly, however, renal disease is the result of toxin exposure. If your dog eats antifreeze, pest poison, poisonous plants, or anything else that his kidneys can’t cope with, it can send them into decline.

Other dogs suffer from kidney disease due to hereditary issues. Or they might just get kidney problems as they get older and their body struggles to cope.

Symptoms of kidney disease in dogs

Kidney disease is very serious, and can kill a dog in a short time after being discovered. Even if it isn’t fatal in the short term, untreated kidney disease can impact your dog’s quality of life. Knowing the symptoms of canine kidney disease is essential for dog owners.

As you might guess after learning about kidney disease, your dog’s drinking and urination habits can be signs of his kidney health.

He may drink a lot because he needs extra water to deal with the toxins. And he may urinate more because he’s drinking so much, and because his kidneys fail to conserve water.

This increase in pee may result in ‘accidents’ around the home. If your dog pees indoors unexpectedly, you should take him to a vet.

Failing kidneys can also lessen your dog’s appetite. Even if you don’t notice him eating less, you might notice he loses weight for no obvious reason.

And kidney disease can cause symptoms that you will see in his mouth. Pale gums or ulcers can be a symptom of kidney disease in dogs.

If he becomes weak, lazy, or fragile, you should also get him checked out by a vet. It could mean your dog has kidney trouble. Renal disease can also affect his vision.

Diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease in dogs

Blood pressure tests are one way to get an indication of whether your dog might have kidney disease. Your dog’s vet should also check for blood and urine abnormalities. She may use x-rays or other scans to have a look at the organs.

If your vet finds that your dog has kidney disease, treatment will depend on the type and stage of the illness.

She will likely recommend dietary changes. Foods that are low in protein, calcium, and sodium, but which are high in omega 3 fatty acids, can be good. You need to make sure he is eating what you give him. Also, ensure that he has a good, constant supply of clean water available.

Your vet may also prescribe pills and supplements. Your dog should not ‘self-medicate.’ Always follow your vet’s instructions rather than guessing what pills might help your dog and buying them online.

Fluid therapy and dialysis are further options for serious cases. Dialysis is rare, though, since it is expensive and time-consuming.

Preventing kidney disease in dogs

The best way to protect your dog from kidney disease is to keep him away from poisons and toxic substances. Don’t use pest poison in your garden, or allow antifreeze to run off from your car. Never give your dog human medication.

Make sure his vaccinations are up to date. Make sure he has a good, nutritious diet, including plenty of clean water.

And because kidney disease is best caught early, be sure to take your dog for his annual check-up, and respond quickly if he shows symptoms of kidney disease.

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