Kidney Failure in Dogs
Kidney function declines as all animals get older but once kidney failure occurs, your dog’s life is threatened. Treatment is aimed at encouraging the remaining kidney cells to take over and allow function to return, with some dogs continuing to live for a long time.
What are the signs of kidney failure?
By definition, kidney failure refers to when a large proportion of kidney cells (nephrons) are no longer functional, so that the kidneys can no longer perform the functions of water balance and waste product excretion.
As more urine is produced, the dog needs to drink more to avoid dehydration, so increased urination and thirst is a common early sign. As the disease progresses, signs include loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, vomiting, diarrhoea, and mouth infections, which cause bad breath.
How is kidney failure diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will perform blood and urine tests, as well as a clinical examination, to determine whether your dog has kidney failure. Specifically, levels of urea and creatinine are measured, and can be used to monitor the condition. More tests may be required if there is a specific disease process occurring, which requires different long-term therapy; these tests can include kidney biopsy.
What is the treatment for kidney failure?
Treatment depends on the severity of the illness. Most dogs will require fluid therapy (usually put on a drip in hospital for a few days), and specific treatment depending on other blood results (such as changes in electrolyte levels like potassium), and clinical signs (such as treatment for vomiting or mouth ulcers).
It is difficult to predict the response to this treatment, as there may simply be insufficient numbers of nephrons to allow the kidneys to ever function normally again. Response to treatment is assessed by improvement in the dog’s demeanor and appetite, by cessation of any vomiting, and by assessing changes in blood parameters.
What treatment will my dog have at home?
Dietary changes are required to decrease the workload on the kidneys and decrease blood urea and creatinine levels. There are medical kidney diets available, some of which are tailored for the stage of kidney disease. The most important difference in these diets is the lower protein content. Other drugs and supplements may be required depending on your dog’s blood test results.
Contributors: Dr Julia Adams BVSc, Dr Rebecca Bragg BVSc