Kidney disease in dogs can affect any breed at any stage of their life, and unfortunately there is no way to predict which one it will and will not develop. While there is nothing you can do to prevent your four-legged friend from developing kidney failure in dogs, you can support the kidneys by providing them with good quality nutrition throughout their life and by constantly providing them with fresh, clean water. If they develop kidney failure it could help slow their progress.
We created this guide to tell you about the most common causes of canine kidney disease and not to give you all the information you need.
Acute kidney failure in dogs
If your dog has acute kidney failure, it means that his kidneys have suddenly stopped working properly. This could be caused by a disease, infection, or because you ate something you shouldn’t be eating, such as antifreeze. Acute kidney failure in dogs can potentially be treated and reversed, but it can also be permanent, depending on what caused it.
Chronic kidney failure in dogs
Chronic kidney failure is more gradual and can last months or even years. It can be caused by a number of causes, including infections and tumors. Unfortunately at the time of diagnosis it is sometimes too late to undo this.
In the early stages of the disease, the healthy areas of the kidney do the extra work that the damaged areas cannot, meaning that healthy parts are working even harder than usual. As the disease progresses and the unhealthy areas exceed the number of healthy ones, the workload just becomes too high and your dog shows signs of kidney failure.
Chronic kidney failure in dogs is a progressive disease that your veterinarian needs to keep an eye on. However, it can usually be managed with a combination of medical treatments and a special diet.
Signs of kidney failure in dogs
There are a number of possible signs of kidney failure in dogs, and every dog is different. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the disease will occur in the same way. However, the most common symptoms are:
- Urinate more often – Urine usually becomes very dilute
- Increased drinking to replace lost fluids
Nausea and vomiting due to accumulation of toxins
- Choking or eating out
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Weight loss
- Pale gums
- Mouth ulcers
- Fragile, weak bones
Use caution when trying to self-diagnose kidney disease, as the signs of kidney disease in dogs can be a symptom of other diseases as well. The sooner you see your veterinarian for a correct diagnosis, the better. While there is no cure for kidney disease, getting treatment early will help ease the discomfort caused by the symptoms and help support your pet’s kidneys.
Diagnosing kidney disease in dogs
When diagnosing kidney disease in dogs, your vet will first test a pee sample to see if your dog’s urine is concentrated, if protein is being lost in the urine, and if there are other problems such as an underlying infection. You can also do a blood test to check specific kidney function, to get a picture of your dog’s overall health, and to see if the buildup of toxins has affected any of their other organs.
Monitoring the condition
Your vet may ask you to take a sample of your dog’s urine to monitor its condition. The best time to get your dog’s urine sample is first thing in the morning, ideally in the middle of the river. How you physically collect their piss depends on whether you have a male or female dog, but plastic lunch boxes or soup ladles can come in handy! Your vet will likely provide you with a sterile container to hold your sample, or you can use a container such as a clean jam jar (residue can affect the results so make sure the container is very clean).
The fresher the sample, the more accurate the tests. So try not to delay taking the sample to your vet.
Treatment of kidney failure in dogs
Treatment for kidney failure in dogs usually consists of a combination of medical and dietary interventions, depending on how severe the symptoms are.
Because kidney failure in dogs can affect so many different body functions and lead to conditions such as high blood pressure or anemia, your veterinarian may recommend certain medications to treat each symptom. Supplements can also be suggested to replace lost vitamins and improve some side effects caused by the disease. It is important to remember to only give supplements and medications on the recommendation of your veterinarian.
Diets for dogs with kidney failure
A special diet can reduce signs of kidney failure in dogs and slow the progression of the disease. Your veterinarian may suggest a carefully balanced prescription kidney diet for dogs. This food is specifically designed to meet your dog’s specific needs and should always be your first choice when recommended.
Unfortunately, these particular diets aren’t always the most delicious as they are made to very strict recipes, so your dog may not consume them with as much enthusiasm as they would with their regular food. Remember that a dog’s sense of smell and taste are around 200,000 times more sensitive than ours, so it needs to tell the difference! However, don’t give up on your prescription diet just because your dog may seem disinterested at first – with a little perseverance, they’ll come around in the end.
Introduce your new diet slowly
When feeding a dog with kidney problems, go slow and introduce the new diet gradually so that it can learn to adapt to the milder flavors and different textures. Unless your vet says otherwise, mix a little of the new diet thoroughly into your dog’s original food first. Then each day increase the amount of the new diet by very small amounts and reduce the amount of your original diet proportionally. Ask your veterinarian about serving sizes for the prescription diet or follow the guidelines on the packaging as these may not be exactly the same as feeding your dog.
Feed little and often
As your dog gets used to the new feeding routine, regularly offer him smaller meals than one or two larger meals. You have to avoid giving them treats anyway if they are on a special diet. More regular feeding can therefore help fill in these gaps.
Warm up the food to make it tastier
You can also try to make your new diet tastier by heating wet food in the microwave slightly to release flavors and soften the texture. If your dog is used to wet food but the prescription diet is dry, soak the nibbles briefly in warm water to soften them.
The switchover process can take anywhere from two to six weeks, but it’s well worth the extra time and effort to keep your furry friend as fit and healthy as possible. With a good diet and plenty of water, you and your dog should continue to live together healthily and happily.
This is our guide to canine kidney failure and treatment options currently available. Want to learn more about symptoms to look out for in dogs? Next, read our guide to kennel cough and treatment.
If you would like more information about kidney problems in dogs or have other questions, please contact our PETCARE EXPERT TEAM.