Canine kidney failure (renal failure) can
develop immediately, over months or years. It can occur suddenly,
referred to as acute kidney failure, or over time, a condition referred
to as chronic kidney failure (CKD). When a renal disease lasts for more
than 3 months it is considered to be chronic. All breeds, sexes and
ages can be effected.The kidneys remove waste and toxins from the
blood. When the kidneys
aren't working, these accumulate in the body, causing problems such as
increased urination and thirst.
Causes of acute or sudden kidney failure include dehydration, poisoning
or a blockage and are reversible in some cases. The chronic form
of the disease has an unknown cause (although damage to the renal tubes
is suspected) and is not reversible, resulting in death in months or up
to four years. Dietary change is the only affordable treatment that has
been shown to slow down the progression of the chronic form of
the disease. Dialysis, or as a last resort, kidney transplantation can
save the patient, although the costs can be prohibitive for most owners
Dog Kidney Disease
Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
Renal Failure in Dogs Overview
Canine kidney disease is diagnosed when the kidneys are not removing
toxins from the bloodstream as well as they should. If toxins build to
dangerous levels it becomes a condition called azotemia. A case is
chronic is it lasts for more than 3 years. Other terms for the disorder
are renal insufficiency or renal failure. The percentage of dogs with
the condition increases with age, with the highest incidence in dogs
over 15 years of age.
It is very difficult to treat existing kidney damage once it is
There are four stages of canine kidney disease determined by tests
conducted over several weeks after a patient is hydrated and is coming
off of a fast. Dogs in stages 1 and 2 may not show any symptoms.
Toxins in the blood have not reached dangerous levels.
No symptoms, but there are toxins in the blood
When your dog is showing symptoms of kidney disease
Kidney damage is advancing and your dog is showing significant symptoms
such as lethargic behavior.
Chronic Kidney failure can occur slowly over months or years without
showing any symptoms. While the exact
cause is not known, it is suspected that damage to the renal
tubes is the underlying cause. Health problems in dogs that can lead to
chronic dog kidney disease include:
Parasite Problem - giant kidney worm called Dioctophyme renale
High blood pressure
Breeds and the Incidence of Chronic Renal Disease or Failure in Dogs
Across all breeds the incidence of kidney failure is 9 cases per 1,000
There are several breeds that have a higher incidence of canine kidney
failure due to genetics:
English Cocker Spaniels
Abnormal kidney growth due to genetics (renal dysplasia) is seen in the
Soft-coated Wheaten terrier
Dog Kidney Failure Symptoms
In most dogs, symptoms appear suddenly. The canine
kidney failure symptoms associated with kidney disease are
common in other diseases. Several body systems are affected including
the cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, gastrointestinal and
Symptoms that occur with greater frequency/early signs:
Urination due to the body's inability to concentrate urine
normally, indicates an approximate 75% reduction in renal function
Water consumption increases to combat dehydration caused by
increased fluid loss via urination
Other symptoms that indicate more advanced forms of dog renal
nocturia (urination at night)
digestive system problems
anorexia (appetite loss)
very bad breath
high blood pressure
acute blindness (related to hypertension)
seizures/coma (late stages of disease)
X-Ray of Canine Kidney Failure in
Patient Suffering From Frequent
Urinary Tract Infections and Uremia (excess waste products in the
blood). X-Ray revealed enlargement of the left kidney which was removed
in surgery. The patient died several days after surgery even thought
one kidney was normal in size and function.(3)
Diagnosis of Dog Renal Failure
Dog kidney disease is diagnosed through routine blood and urine
Results of the tests will indicate if a patient even has kidney disease
and how far and how fast it is progressing (called a renal evaluation).
The average age at diagnosis is 7 years old.
Tests measure if the urine is of the proper consistency, blood urea
nitrogen (BUN) levels and creatinine levels. Even kidneys that are
functioning as low as 25% of normal might not be a problem.
X-rays and ultrasound tests will indicate the shape of the kidneys.
A veterinarian will look for many of the aforementioned symptoms,
reduced body temperature and changes to the shape of the kidneys
(enlarged, small). Signs of acute renal failure in particular are
enlarged kidneys and a short time span for symptoms.
Before reaching a specific diagnosis, diseases with similar symptoms
need to be ruled out such as a urinary tract infection.
Treatment options for canine kidney disease usually depends on
the severity of the condition (stage that the disease is in) and the
underlying cause. Patients that have toxins in the blood at critical
levels will be treated to address fluid and electrolyte deficiency
(called a uremic crisis).
Dogs in stage 3 or 4 kidney failure are monitored every 1 to 3
months. If only one of the two kidneys is diseased, just one kidney can
be removed, a procedure called a nefrectomy.
Cost of Treatment
The cost of canine kidney disease treatment can vary based on the
progression of the
problem. This can range from several hundred dollars a month for
supportive care to thousands of dollars for dialysis
Medications such as antihypertensive agents with specific intrarenal
effects such as ACE inhibitors have had a positive impact on renal
Famotidine: to address nausea and lack of appetite
Aluminum Carbonite: to correct hyperphosphatemia (excessive
phosphates in the blood)
Amlopidine: for hypertension (high blood pressure)
ACE inhibitor (benazepril/enalapril): to address proteinuria
proteins in the urine)
Acute Kidney Disease Treatment
For actute forms of the diseaes, the first step is to eliminate
anything that may be causing the kidney disease such as:
Medications - that may be damaging the kidneys (eg; the
Stress - the introduction of new pets and changes in your dogs
environment, also extreme weather such as heat or cold
The kidney's could be helped by:
Drinking more water; make water available throughout the day
Antacids (tagamet or zantac for canine)
Natural Medicine: there are several herbal ingredients that can
address some of the issues associated with kidney health. Herbs such as
burdock (for digestion and blood sugar regulation), dandelion (helps
with fluid balance and is a good vitamin source) and cleavers
(lymphatic cleanser). Pet
Alive Kidney Support is made specifically for this purpose
worth further research and discussion with your veterinarian.
If the kidney disease is reversible then your veterinarian may
recommend an expensive treatment option such as dialysis.
This is used in cases such as antrifreeze
poisoning. It is possible for dog's to receive a kidney
Chronic Kidney Disease Treatment
The veterinarian will address any symptoms with the condition
stabilizing for weeks or months at a time. The veterinarian
stop the deterioration of the kidneys, however, the condition of the
patient can be improved with care.
Dog Dialysis in cases for Chronic and
Acute Kidney Disease
Hemodialysis for canine kidney failure is available to treat acute
and chronic cases of
the disease. In this procedure a cather is iattached to the dog while
the dialysis machine removes toxins from the blood (dogs need to
tolerate having a catheter attached). The cost of care is estimated to
be between $20,000 to $25,000 for the initial 2 to 3 weeks of
treatment, Owners also need to live near the dialysis center.
For chronic kidney disease a dog would need lifetime dialysis,
resulting in even higher costs. For acute kidney failure, dialysis can
make more sense since the treatment is short term.
Dog Kidney Transplants
Several veterinary hospitals can perform kidney transplants in dogs.
Unfortunately survival rates in 50% of patients are 2 months or less.(1) Transplants can cost as much as $15,000,
preceeded by dialysis and other forms of supportive care (before and
after) that can bring the total to $100,000 (U.S.).
Post surger medications such as rejection prevention medications are
required for the life of the dog and will cost more in larger breeds.
Dog Kidney Disease Diet
Recent research studies show that dietary change to a commercial
food made for kidney or renal problems can both improve your dog's
quality of life and extend the number of years your dog can live with
the disease. The diets work by decreasing phosphorus levels and by
suupplementing the diet with omega 3 fatty acids. The results is longer
survival times, although researchers have not identified the specific
part of the diet that is leadeing to the improvements in lifespan. See
on diets for Canine Kidney Disease (CDK).
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(3) Washington State University School of Veterinary
(4) Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) in Dogs & Cats -
Staging and Management Strategies
Dennis J. Chew, DVM Diplomate ACVIM (Internal Medicine)
The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine
Columbus, Ohio, USA
(5) Acute Renal Failure: Prevention, Diagnosis and
Scott A. Brown, VMD, PhD, DACVIM
University of Georgia
Medical Management of Chronic Kidney Disease
Scott Brown, VMD, PhD, DACVIM and Cathy Brown, VDN, PhD, DACVP
Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Georgia