Kidney disease is a serious condition that can, if left untreated, be life-threatening to a dog. Just like in humans, the purpose of the kidneys in dogs is to filter out waste and balance substances in the blood.

There are two types of kidney disease in dogs: acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease. Acute kidney injury results when an insult to the kidneys ​causes them to suddenly cease to perform their purpose.

This could be due to ​toxin ingestion, infections, or other illnesses. Acute kidney​ injury is reversible in some cases but can progress to kidney failure and death in others.

Chronic kidney ​disease is a degenerative disease that progresses over months or even years. In the early stages, there are typically few to no clinical signs. Over time, it can progress to cause more serious diseases and even lead to kidney failure and death.

Chronic kidney disease occurs when some of the nephrons, microscopic parts of the kidney, begin dying. These will be replaced by healthy nephrons held in reserve but eventually, the number of healthy nephrons will diminish to the point that the kidneys can no longer do their job.

While this process is not reversible and there is no cure for chronic kidney disease, there are measures that can help slow the progression if the disease is diagnosed early.

This guide will help you to identify the condition and put proper treatment in place so that your dog can get the help he needs.

Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Dogs

  1. Excessive Drinking and Urinating
    The first sign that you may notice in your dog is an increase in thirst and urination. With kidney disease, the kidneys are damaged and have difficulty concentrating urine. As a result, the dog’s urine will be more dilute. This creates a cycle of the dog urinating more frequently and then drinking more water to compensate.
  2. Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss
    The dog may also have a decreased or lost appetite and experience weight loss. At the same time, nausea and vomiting could be present.
  3. Signs of Urinary Tract Infections
    Dogs with kidney disease are more prone to urinary tract infections because their urine is so dilute. Urinary tract infections can lead to blood in the urine, accidents or needing to go more frequently than usual, and straining to urinate.
  4. Changes in Mood and Behavior
    As kidney disease progresses, it typically leads to lethargy. It will likely be very obvious that your pooch is not feeling well, and looking for the other symptoms will help you to identify kidney failure if that is the issue she is struggling from.
  5. Mouth Ulcers and Changes in Gum Color
    If you look in the mouth of a dog that has kidney failure, there may be mouth ulcers, and the gums could appear pale.

Treatment Options for Dogs with Kidney Disease

Treatment of kidney disease depends on the cause, and whether the problem is acute or chronic. There are a few aspects of treatment that are important in most cases:

Fluid Therapy
The first, and perhaps most important, part of treatment is fluid therapy. Dogs are typically given fluids to help with rehydration and flush out the system. Fluids may be given IV or under the skin.

This process may be completed rather quickly or the dog may need to stay in the vet clinic on IV diuresis for several days.

At the end of the fluid therapy in the vet clinic, dogs with chronic kidney failure may need to have to continue fluid therapy maintained by the owner via subcutaneous fluids, which will be administered with a needle in the loose skin between the shoulder blades.

Special Diets
Most of the time, a dog with kidney disease will be prescribed a special diet. These diets are usually low in protein, phosphorus, calcium, and sodium, and are not acidified.

The purpose of this type of therapeutic diet is to lower the amount of work the kidneys have to perform, which is especially important for advanced kidney disease.

By reducing the protein wastes and metabolic toxins, this type of diet will help your dog ​feel better for a longer period of time and help slow the progression of kidney disease.

The medications for kidney failure are intended to take some of the burden off of the kidneys. Phosphate binders are used to lessen the amount of phosphorus the body absorbs.

This is helpful because it is the kidneys that usually filter the phosphorus out of the blood. ​In addition, antacids are used in some cases because the kidneys can’t regulate acidity as well.

Many dogs will develop anemia because the kidneys are not producing the hormone erythropoietin, which stimulates the bone marrow to create red blood cells. A medication to stimulate red blood cell production can be used to correct the anemia.

Antiemetics will frequently be used to reduce nausea and vomiting. ACE inhibitors will work to prevent protein loss due to kidney failure. Finally, various vitamins and minerals can also be beneficial to make sure the dog is getting the nutrition he needs.

Keep an Eye Out for Kidney Disease Symptoms in Your Dog

Kidney disease is a very serious condition that can have either an acute or chronic onset. Paying attention to the symptoms in the early stages of the disease is extremely important ​because early detection makes treatment much more successful.

The treatment process of kidney disease includes fluid therapy to flush out the system, special diets to lower the amount of work the kidneys have to do, and medications to control the symptoms and balance nutrition in the dog’s body.

If you think your dog may have kidney disease, remember that time is of the essence, and contact our animal hospital in Madison, WI at 608-833-6585 as soon as possible to ensure your dog gets the help she needs in time.

About PetCare Animal Hospital

Since 1975, Petcare Animal Hospital has been serving the Madison, WI pet community with the highest standards of care. We truly believe that pets should be treated like family, so we give them the same care we would expect for our own pets.