Kidney failure in dogs is a potentially serious condition and you should seek a qualified vet advice.
First, the basics: The kidney’s role is to clear waste products from the blood. It regulates water levels in the body by removing excess water or conserving it when levels are low. It also regulates minerals like sodium and potassium.
So, kidney failure, or renal disease as its also known, is by definition the inability of the kidney to effectively remove the waste products from the blood. This may occur suddenly, or happen gradually over a period of time in both dogs and cats.
Note that the emphasis here is not that the kidneys have stopped “making urine”. This is a misconception. Instead, the renal failure occurs when the kidneys are unable to efficiently filter out the waste.
There will still be urine—in fact, likely in higher quantities than usual, but the toxic waste still remains in the blood.
Acute vs Chronic Kidney Failure
For acute types of kidney failure, there’s a sudden onset, followed with an aggressive treatment regime. Quick diagnosis of damage to the kidney will facilitate the success of vets in reversing it. This will also help to prevent long term damage to the immune system.
On the other hand, with chronic kidney failure there is a slow decline in the kidney’s ability to carry out its role. This leads to the buildup of waste in the dog’s body. Although irreversible, there are treatment measures to manage it and ensure your dog has a good quality of life.
What Happens During Kidney Failure?
These organs come with a large reserve capacity to continue with the different kidney functions. The dogs can live with just one kidney, or a part of it. Destroyed tissue cannot be regenerated. That’s why its essential to recognize the signs of kidney disease.
Clinical signs of chronic renal failure will start showing up when at least ⅔ of the kidneys have become dysfunctional.
Unfortunately, the destruction will have been taking place for months or even years before symptoms develop.
One of the common causes of chronic renal failure is actually dental disease. Here, the bacterial infections for the advanced dental diseases get into the bloodstream. This allows them to invade multiple organs leading to damage of the liver, heart, and kidneys.
For acute renal failure, the decline in will be rapid, typically taking place in just a few days. This can be as a result of ingesting toxins like antifreeze— which contains ethylene glycol. It can also be connected to the effects of medications or tainted food.
Other options include disruption in blood flow, causing the kidneys to receive less blood or oxygen. This is common with heart conditions, bacterial infections or urinary obstruction, including a urolith (urinary stone) restricts the flow of urine.
Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Dogs
Watch out for these signs of kidney problems:
At the early stages
- Your pooch will have increased thirst. Basically, the dog keeps drinking more than usual. You will have to keep refilling the water bowl at a higher frequency.
- Changes in urine volume:
- Increased rate of urination and pee accidents around your house. If you notice a house-trained dog suddenly starting to have the urine accidents in your home, then you should schedule an appointment with the vet.
Note that this can also be caused by behavioral problems or incontinence that affects older dogs. Don’t be quick to jump to conclusions about renal failure. Speak to the vet first.
- Decreased urine: The opposite can also occur, a sudden decrease or total inability of the dog to pass urine is actually a life-threatening emergency.
As the condition progresses:
- Decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
These are symptoms of uremia, which is directly related to renal failure. Toxins like ammonia and nitrogen buildup in the dog’s body to cause this.
Is your dog throwing up yellow vomit? Read this article about what this could mean.
Treatment Options For Acute Or Chronic Renal Failure
Chronic Kidney Failure
Chronic kidney failure in dogs depends on how early it has been diagnosed. Controlling chronic kidney disease is dependent on the results of the blood tests carried out.
First, the kidneys are flushed in order to remove the toxins that have accumulated in the body. Here, there will be high doses of intravenous (IV) fluids provided.
Treating kidney damage is done through a process known as diuresis, allowing the kidney cells that are mildly damaged to function normally. This is achieved through the removal of toxic metabolites and create a healthier environment.
If there are enough healthy and functional kidney cells remaining, they may be able to meet the filtration and waste removal needs of the body.
Fluid therapy is also key in replacing electrolytes such as potassium. Medication is then provided to manage and delay the profession of the disease. This can enable the dog to live normally for longer.
For instance, drugs that stimulate the production of new red blood cells in the bone marrow may be required. This is because the hormone that is required for this—erythropoietin—is produced in the kidneys. During renal failure production will dramatically drop or cease.
This leads to anemia or the dog getting a low red blood cell count. A special diet will also be required, especially one that is not acidified.
The focus is on lowering the amount of protein and phosphorus consumed. This is to reduce the kidney’s workload.
You will also want to ensure there is access to plenty of fresh water
Acute Kidney Failure In Dogs
A similar approach is followed with acute kidney failure, first with the IV fluids and monitoring the urine production.
Medication is administered to treat the cause, such as antibiotics if it is a bacterial infection. A temporary feeding tube may be required since the dog may still be reluctant about eating.
There may also be high blood pressure due to the kidney failure. This will trigger a need for medication to regulate blood pressure. Note that, with acute renal failure there may be increased potassium levels in the blood. This is the opposite of what happens with chronic renal failure.
These will be evident in the blood and urine tests.
Advanced therapies may be needed for successful treatment, including cases where there is fluid in the dog’s lungs. These therapies include peritoneal dialysis. The vet places a tube directly into the dog’s stomach abdomen cavity to push fluid into it. The vet drains the fluid later.
Hemodialysis is viable alternative. The vet inserts an IV catheter in the vein to remove the blood. It’s dispatched to a machine that filters out the toxins before being returned to the dog’s body.