Kidney failure in dog: what is it and how to treat it
What is kidney or renal failure in dog?
Kidney failure in dog also known as renal failure can be caused due to several different diseases.
Kidneys have several tasks in your dogs body. They are very important for the regulation of hydration. Kidneys remove toxins out of the body. They release hormones that are necessary for the production of red blood cells. They also are important to maintain a normal electrolyte balance. If you have a dog with kidney failure these functions are not longer working properly in the body. There are 2 kinds of kidney failure in dog:
Acute kidney failure
Acute renal kidney failure means that the kidneys are no longer working as they should due to suddenly decline. (few hours until days). Acute renal failure in dog has several causes:
Acute kidney failure causes
It can take a few hours or days until the dogs kidneys are not functioning properly. Mostly caused by infections or toxins.
Causes for acute renal failure can be:
Acute kidney failure in dogs may have several causes like dehydration or a bacterial infection. A bacterial infection can be caused by drinking or swimming in contaminated water. There are also other external factors that can cause acute kidney failure:
- Antifreeze ( if your dog licked antifreeze by accident from the ground, please make sure you don’t spoil antifreeze in your garage or driveway where the dog has access to)
- Raisins and grapes (check what is in some food to make sure there are no grapes or raisins in it)
- Human heart medication (please make sure your dog never has access to your own medications)
- Ibuprofen (if your dog has an infection or is in pain ,please never give your dog your own medication but consult your veterinarian).
- Overdose of canine medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Chocolate (I know you want your dog to be happy because chocolate can make you happy but giving your dog chocolate is not one of them.
- acetaminophen or paracetamol ( for humans used to lower fever and a pain reliever)
Of course this list is not complete. To avoid acute kidney failure to the minimum make sure you keep your household items out of the reach. Your beloved furry friend will be forever grateful!
Luckily, in my case my dog Didi didn’t have the experience with acute renal failure . However, I want to mention this type of kidney failure anyway. I believe it is very important for people to know what the consequences are if your dog has eaten the above items.
Symptoms of acute renal failure
The symptoms of acute kidney failure will appear rapidly. Within a few hours or days after drinking or eating the toxins or after the infection you will notice. Here are some symptoms:
- having ulcurs in the mouth
- tired, lack of energy and depression
- drinking too much or drinking almost nothing
- urinated too much or almost not want to urinate
- uncoordinated movement like stumbling
- no appetite
- breathing smells like chemicals
Chronic kidney failure dog
If your dog suffers form chronic kidney failure it means the kidneys are losing their function gradually over weeks, months or years.
Causes chronic kidney failure in dogs
- Aging: the kidneys are degenerating mainly due to aging (geriatric decline). It is natural for kidneys to have a natural lifespan but some kidneys will simply fail more quickly than others. The size of the dog also plays a part when the aging of the kidneys start. Mostly, small dogs will show early signs of kidney failure in between ten to fourteen years of age.
- Congenital disease: there are some diseases your dog might have inherited like being born without one kidney or abnormal development and cysts.
Chronic renal failure prevention
Here are 2 reasons I want to mention . You can take these into consideration that could effect your dogs’ kidney. These causes are mainly on the long term as well. This is based on my own experience with my dog Didi. It could have been prevented if I knew this before:
- Commercial wet dog food: if you feed your dog mostly wet dog food the teeth can develop plague, gum disease and cavities. Especially small dogs like Jack-Russell’s and Yorkshire terriers are very sensitive to bad teeth. Not only this is very painful for your dog but it can also lead to other diseases. For example heart, liver and kidney failure on the long run. If not treated, your dog can lose his appetite caused by the pain of the teeth. Therefore, it is very important to ask your vet to check the teeth of your dog. This can be done once or twice a year. If the vet recommends a teeth cleansing treatment to prevent further damage than it is definitely worth considering it. And it is probably not popular to say this but try to feed your dog mainly dry food. It is very important for your dog to chew the food properly in order to clean its teeth naturally.
- Bad teeth: if your dog has problems with his teeth than it can effect the kidneys on the long run. If your dog has a bad smell, brown teeth and does not want to chew or eat food, this is a good warning that your dog has bad teeth. Your dog might need a professional teeth cleansing treatment provided by the vet.
Importance of teeth examination and cleansing
In the case of my dog Didi I detected her kidney failure in time thanks to her bad teeth issues. She didn’t want to eat anything. After the vet ran some random blood tests on her as well the chronic kidney failure was detected’ in time’. I was able to start her kidney treatment from that point on. The chronic kidney failure was detected by accident so to speak.
In Didi’s case she had the disadvantage that she was a Jack-Russell mix and was sensitive for having bad teeth. Because of this, she had several professional teeth cleansing treatments in her life.
Maybe if I only could clean her teeth with a toothbrush myself I could have prevented a few teeth cleansing treatments. Unfortunately, she was so scared of the toothbrush and so stressed out I haven’t forced her again. Since she was a very traumatized dog (stray dog from Portugal)she panicked of almost everything.
Additional info cleansing treatment
Lastly, the vet asked to remove possible inflamed anal glands as a preventive and free service. This would be done during the teeth cleansing treatment. I agreed to it since Didi wouldn’t feel anything. However, this turned into a big problem afterwards. The anal glands were squeezed out too hard (there was blood coming out afterwards) and the result was that Didi didn’t want to poop anymore since it was too painful. After 5 days not having pooped the vet used anal medication to make Didi poop instantly. This treatment was repeated twice.
So I want to warn you that if you want to preventive remove inflamed anal glands even though your dog shows no signs of discomfort please think again. I would not recommend it if it is not necessary.
Symptoms of chronic renal failure dog
Chronic kidney failure of a dog can be presented within months or years. The signals can vary from small and gradually develop into severe chronic kidney failure. These symptoms can be a warning sign that your dog might have kidney disease:
- Drinking too much
- Urinating large volumes and too much
- Overall weakness due to low potassium in your dogs’ blood
- The volume of the urine in the bladder is increased
- Depression signs caused by elevation of waste products in the blood.
Advanced symptoms of chronic kidney failure dog
In a more advances stage of chronic kidney failure you might see these signals:
- significant weight loss
- no or bad appetite
- uncoordinated movement like stumbling or drunken behavior
- pale gums
- blood in urine
- tired, lack of energy and depression
- breathing smells like chemicals
- intestinal seizures
- ulcurs in the mouth
Once your dog is showing these signs and you start noticing, the kidney disease has advanced. Please go to your vet to examine your dog.
My dog Didi was early diagnosed due to blood tests and urine tests before her professional teeth cleansing treatment. After the kidneys started to get worse she showed signs like drinking too much and urinating more than usual.
Diagnosing chronic kidney failure in dog
Chronic kidney failure can be detected by running a couple of blood and urine tests. This is to confirm your dog has chronic kidney failure. If your vet wants to have a complete view of the disease than ultrasound, X-rays and urinalysis are normally used when diagnosing chronic kidney failure. This depends on the situation. Running blood tests and urine tests are also good to exclude other diseases like diabetes mellitus. Diabetes can also have some symptoms that look quite the same. My dear Rottweiler Zeus who was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus had similarsymptoms. The symptoms were drinking and urinating too much and could easily be confused with chronic kidney failure.
Your vet will consider the type of renal failure and the progression of the condition. He or she will also look for the cause and the extend of loss of function of the kidneys.
Diagnosing chronic renal failure Didi
In Didi’s case she had blood and urine tests to begin with. After a few years her symptoms worsened. The vet wanted to know exactly what the stage of her kidneys were. She got an ultrasound. The vet could see on the ultrasound that one of her kidneys was almost not visible anymore. The kidney had shrunk in size. This can happen because of aging.
The ultrasound was done without anesthesia and for Didi very stressful. Why? Because she needed to lay on her side and back with (over) stretched legs. The vet needed to shave her belly so the ultrasound device would easily slide on her belly. Because the vet couldn’t locate one kidney. Because it shrunk, he needed to put more pressure on her belly and Didi was terrified and I needed to hold her legs and keep her quiet. I held her since she hated going to the vet and never liked strangers. This was caused by her traumatic past. If I would do this over again I would ask the vet to give her something to calm her down. Maybe some anesthesia. Why? Both for Didi and I it was very stressful and after this treatment she didn’t wanted to enter the veterinarian office.
Kidney failure in dog stages
There are 4 stages of chronic kidney failure according to the International Renal Interest Society. In what stage your dog is in can be examined by running blood and urine tests. The severity can be measured by checking the blood waste product and abnormalities in the urine and level of protein.
Stage 1 is the lowest stage and stage 4 the highest. If your dog is in stage 4 , you see the symptoms very clear. Lots of drinking, urinating, vomiting, not want to eat or bad appetite are regular. So the sooner you start the treatment to support the kidneys the better to prolong your dogs’ life.
How long does a dog live with kidney failure?
It depends on what stage your dog is at. If discovered and treated in an early stage, your dog might have a good quality of life for several years ahead. According the statistics, the overall survival time for a dog in stage 1 is more than 400 days. In stage 2 it lays in between 200-400 days, in stage 3 in between 110 to 200 days. Please note this is an estimation and every dogs’ situation is different.
How long did Didi live with kidney failure?
My dog Didi has lived with her kidney disease almost 5 years so there is hope if early detected! Thanks to the special kidney food diet her kidneys didn’t got worse too fast. I believe (and is confirmed by the vet), that her special diet is the cause her lifespan prolonged for so many years. And also the early discovery of the kidney failure before Didi showed serious symptoms, has contributed to her long lifespan.
If your dog has very bad teeth, please ask your vet for a professional teeth cleansing treatment. This might be the cause of early chronic kidney failure as well. You can combine this treatment with running blood tests to see if there are some underlying issues like kidney failure. Your dog is under general anesthesia during the teeth cleaning treatment after all. Therefore, running an extra blood test will cost you and your dog no extra stress.
Kidney failure in dog end stage
What are the symptoms of end stage kidney failure in dogs?
There is no cure for chronic kidney disease. By the time your dog show signals like vomiting, bad appetite, not eating, nauseousness, depression, diarrhea and very bad breath, this disease has increased into stage 4.
Kidney failure in dog stage 4
How long can a dog live with stage 4 kidney disease?
In stage 4 your dog shows the most symptoms as mentioned before. The estimated survival time for a dog in stage 4 lays in between 14-80 days according to the IRIS.
My dog Didi didn’t recover properly from her last teeth cleansing treatment (she was almost 16,5) . The symptoms got worse and worse. Because her teeth were again in such a bad state ,we were advised to let her teeth professionally clean again. Even though she only ate dry food, her teeth were bad. Seven teeth were removed. Of course, this treatment could mean Didi would not survive it. But it was this treatment or a slow death of starvation. After the treatment she slowly started to eat again but unfortunately her kidneys got worse. On one hand we needed to make sure she just ate, but on the other hand she needed to eat her kidney diet. So we investigated a lot about the ingredients in kidney diet and made a lot or recipes ourselves. From the day of the surgery until the day she died she lived 2,5 month. I have written a blog about grief and how to deal with the loss of a dog if the time has come to say goodbye to your beloved friend. Check this blog here.
Can a dog recover from kidney failure?
It depends if the dog has acute or chronic kidney failure. Acute kidney failure is very serious and unfortunately the prognosis is often not good. Some dogs might survive and other dogs don’t. However, acute kidney failure can be reversed if treatment is provided in an early stage by the vet.
If your dog has chronic kidney failure than it can only be treated with a kidney diet. This diet will be advised by your vet. This diet only helps in the first stages of the disease. In stage 3 or 4 your dog might need other treatment. This means your dog will not recover from the kidney failure since the cause is often aging or inherited disease. If the kidney failure in dog is detected in an early stage your dog might have a good prognosis. Your dog might still live a few more extra years.
Ask your vet to examine your pet by taking blood and urine tests. For a complete view your vet may recommend X-rays or ultrasounds etc. As mentioned before, to support your dogs’ kidneys it is very important to give your dog a special kidney diet. To prevent kidney failure, keep your dogs’ teeth in good condition.
Kidney failure dogs treatment
Blood and urine tests to check kidney failure
Firstly, your vet needs to perform blood and urine tests to check for kidney disease. In addition your vet can do a physical examination. To get a complete view of the stage, and to discover the cause of the kidney disease, your vet might take an X-ray or ultrasound.
If your dog is still in an early stage, you can support the kidneys by giving your dog a special diet dog food. This special kidney food is advised by the vet.
My dog Didi has eaten special kidney diet since she was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure. I would highly recommend to stay in good contact with your vet if your dog is showing more symptoms in order to adjust treatment. If your dog is a very picky eater due to the kidney failure I have some recommendations based on my own experience . I will share my best dog food tips during the different stages.
I have good experience with this kidney dog food from the brand
Please consult your vet for professional food advice before purchasing kidney diet food!
Medications for kidney failure
Your vet might prescribe several medication:
Phosphate binder: can be used to reduce positive phosphate balance. It lowers serum phosphate levels. This helps to prevent progression of chronic kidney disease.
Blood pressure medication: medication that helps to lower the blood pressure can slow down the progression of kidney failure.
Other more intense kidney failure treatments
Secondly, if the symptoms are increasing gradually over time, other treatments might be done. For example, providing your dog extra fluids under the skin. However, once the disease has progressed even the extra fluid can not help your dog properly. A more aggressive treatment to consider is hospitalization. This means your dog receives either fluid therapy, dialysis or even a kidney transplant.
For Didi both fluid therapy or dialysis were too late since she got into stage 4. The vet didn’t recommend these treatments since she was already too weak due to her teeth treatment. She was too old (16,5 years old). It was just a matter of prolonging her life for a few extra days, without good quality of life. We decided that we would do anything we could, to make her last days as comfortable as possible.
How can I make my dog with kidney disease comfortable?
By giving your dog small meals during the day. Instead of two to three meals a day you can give several small portions during the day. Give fresh food and make sure your dog always has access to clean water.
In the end stage we gave Didi the best food we could find. She wouldn’t eat dog food anymore anyway. There was no change she would recover after all. All in small portions.
How do you re-hydrate a dog with kidney failure?
Always provide fresh water. Maybe a water fountain is an option for you. You may put clean bowls in several rooms around the home.
What can I expect?
All treatments are meant to support the work the kidneys and to reduces accumulating wastes. Keep in mind that your dog might respond very slow to the fluid or dialysis. It can take weeks to months to see some progress. However, these treatments can prolong your dogs’ lifespan. Ask your vet for the possibilities and costs. Both fluid therapy and dialysis are not cheap and they can be time consuming and stressful for your dog. Therefore it is very important to ask your vet for advice.
Lastly, chronic kidney failure cannot be cured. It depends on what stage your dog is at what the life expectancy might be.
Is kidney failure painful in dogs?
In an early stage your dog can be treated with a special kidney diet. For most of the dogs kidney disease is uncomfortable in stead of painful. This depends on the stages. If your dog is in stage 4 your dog might experience symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, nauseousness, poor appetite. This is rather uncomfortable than painful.
My dog Didi had all the above symptoms and in addition she couldn’t control her bladder very well . This resulted in lots of ‘accidents’ in our house. This happened during the last days of her life. Before she reached stage 4, I never had the idea that she was in pain or in discomfort besides her picky eating habit. She was also drinking a bit more than before.
I hope this blog post has given you some answers to your questions. You now know what to expect if your dog has chronic kidney failure.
*Disclaimer: I am not a vet and this information is only informative. No rights may be derived from this information. For professional medical advice please contact your veterinarian.
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