Canine Renal Failure (Kidney Disease): A Complete Guide

Canine renal failure (also known as kidney disease) can cause a variety of symptoms and considerable pain around the kidneys.

There are two forms of kidney disease in dogs (Acute and Chronic).

Acute Kidney Failure…This form can attack your dog suddenly but the prognosis can be reasonably good if it is treated before too much damage is caused.

There are a number of causes of Acute Kidney Failure including…

  • Heart disease.
  • Leptospirosis and fungal infections.
  • Rat poison and anti-freeze can also cause acute damage to the Kidneys.
  • Some medications and antibiotics can also lead to renal failure.
  • Trauma that has caused the blood pressure to fall suddenly and dramatically can lead to Kidney failure (an example would be if your dog was hit by a car leading to shock and a fall in blood pressure).

Symptoms can include…

  • Thirst due to dehydration.
  • Pain around the kidneys
  • Increased urination. However, in some cases a a dog with Kidney Failure may urinate less than normal.

Diagnosis… Acute kidney failure can be diagnosed through blood tests and urinalysis.

Treatment… A vet will normally start by treating the underlying cause of the problem and treatment may involve the Vet flushing out harmful toxins using IV fluids.

If your vet has tried treating the underlying causes and and also used an IV drip on your dog and this has still not worked, your vet may decide that dialysis is the answer, there are two types of dialysis…
Peritoneal dialysis involves fluid being injected directly into the belly and then being extracted along with any possible toxins.

Hemodialysis is very expensive with many vets not having the facilities as it involves a machine that filters toxins in your dog’s bloodstream.

Chronic Kidney (Renal) Failure…This form can be slow and progressive and and needs to be treated early before too much damage is caused.

Causes of Chronic Canine Renal Failure can Include…

  • Infection.
  • Heart disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Poison.
  • Trauma or shock can be a cause.

A kidney disorder may have been inherited by your dog from birth which can also lead to chronic kidney disease, below are some of the different types…

Renal Hypoplasia – this when the kidney’s haven’t completely developed.

Renal Agenesis – This is when one or even both of your dog’s kidneys are missing from birth.

Renal Dysplasia – The kidneys haven’t developed normally.

Polycystic Kidney Disease – This is when there are cysts on the kidneys.

Symptoms of Chronic Canine Kidney (Renal) Failure can include…

  • Extreme weight loss.
  •  Depression.
  • Vomiting.
  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Extreme thirst.
  • You may notice that when you will fill your dog’s bowl up with water, she will drink it all and still want more.
  • Your dog may urinate around the house, simply because she can’t help it.
  • Your dog may seem very weak.
  • Pain around the kidneys is another symptom of kidney disease.
  • Your dog’s breath may have a smell similar to ammonia.
  • Check your dog’s tongue, if it is dark it maybe a symptom of the disease.

How is Chronic Kidney (Renal) Failure Diagnosed…?

  • Ultrasound and X-rays maybe needed to determine whether the kidneys are damaged.
  • Blood tests.
  • Your vet may need to perform kidney biopsy to get a really good idea whether the disease is present.
  • Urinalysis is also a useful diagnostic tool used to diagnose the condition.

Treatment for Chronic Canine Kidney (Renal) Failure…

  • There isn’t a cure but the progression of the disease can be slowed, depending on the stages of the disease.
  • Treatment may include medication to stop the vomiting. Sometimes your dog may have lost vital vitamins so B vitamins may be prescribed by your vet.
  • It is vital that you always leave enough water out for your dog.
  • Sometimes a specific diet may help your dog’s symptoms, including dog food that is very low in protein and has specific salt and minerals included in the ingredients.
  • Your vet may prescribe Erythropoietin to treat any anemia. Steroids may also be prescribed.
  • Blood transfusions may also be offered by your vet.
  • In some cases your vet may use bicarbonate, this will help regulate the pH levels in the blood.
  • IV fluids may also be used to remove any toxins in your dog’s body.

N.B. Although kidney cancer in dogs is very rare, prostate cancer can sometimes lead to kidney failure.