Kidney failure in dogs: how to spot this serious disease?


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Kidney failure in dogs is a serious disease. There are two types. The first one can be reversible if it is treated quickly. The other is irreversible and requires life-long treatments for the dog. If your pet has this disease, it can still live well for several years. To do this, you must know how to spot the symptoms of renal failure.

Definition of renal failure in dogs

Kidney failure is a disease that affects your dog’s kidneys. These organs have several essential roles. They filter the blood to eliminate metabolic waste in the urine. They also control the amount of water in the body by modulating the volume of urine produced. Finally, they secrete a hormone, erythropoietin, involved in the synthesis and production of red blood cells.

Kidney failure occurs when the dog’s kidneys no longer filter the blood properly as it passes through.

The different types of renal failure

Acute renal failure

Acute renal failure (ARF) is characterized by its sudden onset. Its causes can be varied: dehydration (heat stroke), urinary obstruction, hemorrhage, infection or the taking of certain medications.

Chronic renal failure

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is common in dogs. It is an irreversible disease. It is characterized by a progressive loss of kidney function. Over time, your dog’s kidneys lose their ability to filter blood properly.

This type of insufficiency is often the consequence of other pathologies. However, the initial causes are often difficult to determine with certainty.

Symptoms and diagnosis of renal failure

The symptoms of acute renal failure

The symptoms appear suddenly. Acute renal failure is mainly characterized by :

  • Oliguria, a decrease in urine production, or even anuria (absence of urine production).
  • Cloudy urine (very concentrated or bloody).
  • Vomiting.
  • Depression.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Dehydration.

The symptoms of chronic kidney disease

The symptoms of chronic kidney disease come late, when the disease is already well established.

There are some signs that can alert you, but these can also be signs of another condition:

  • An increase in drinking (polydipsia) accompanied by an increase in the amount of urine (polyuria). This is called polyuro-polydipsia (PUPD).
  • Decreased appetite (which may be less marked in acute renal failure).
  • A decrease in appetite.
  • Weight loss due to amyotrophy, i.e. loss of muscles.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Halitosis (bad breath).
  • High blood pressure.

The diagnosis of renal failure

Whether it is chronic or acute, only urine and blood tests can diagnose this disease and its potential causes. For example, the levels of urea (from the breakdown of amino acids) and creatinine (formed from creatine) are examined. An increase in their concentration indicates a problem with kidney function.

Imaging tests may also be performed to detect a root cause (for example, a kidney tumor or urinary obstruction).

Treatment of your dog’s kidney failure

In acute renal failure

Acute renal failure is often reversible if it is managed quickly. Treatment consists mainly of treating the cause. This may involve rehydrating the dog or stopping its bleeding and administering a specific treatment (such as an antibiotic to fight an infection that may be involved).

Your veterinarian may put your dog on an IV to artificially remove waste and toxins from the bloodstream. Some symptomatic treatments can be administered: antivomiting, diuretics, antidiarrhea. Finally, the diet must be adapted so as not to overload the kidney.

In chronic renal failure

Chronic kidney disease requires treatment throughout your pet’s life. Treatments are only meant to slow down the evolution of the disease and to limit complications. They do not cure the disease.

Two types of treatments can be implemented:

  • Symptomatic treatment: this is to fight against certain symptoms of renal failure (diuretics, anti-vomiting drugs, etc.).
  • Food treatment: a therapeutic food against renal failure must be given to the dog. It takes the form of kibbles or pâtés.

Preventing renal failure in dogs

It is difficult to prevent the onset of this disease. An up-to-date vaccination can limit the initial causes. In addition, a healthy lifestyle and a healthy and adapted diet are also recommended.

Despite your efforts, your dog is never safe from being affected by a disease. To better protect your dog and assume the potential costs, you can subscribe to a dog health insurance. This will cover part of your pet’s veterinary expenses.