Kidney or renal failure refers to the inability of the kidneys to remove waste products from the body, and maintain electrolyte balance. Kidney or renal failure in dogs is generally classified into two categories - acute and chronic kidney failure.
Acute kidney failure is the condition, where the kidneys suddenly fail to eliminate wastes from the body, and regulate urine production. But chronic kidney failure is the condition that develops over a period of time. The kidneys slowly and gradually cease to eliminate wastes from the body. When the kidneys fail to perform its normal functions, the wastes or toxic materials accumulate within the body, which can prove fatal.
Kidney Failure in Dogs
Several factors, ranging from a trauma or injury, to diseases of the immune system, kidney tumors, and cancer can cause renal failure in dogs. The main factors that have been observed to be associated with this condition are, an injury to the kidneys, exposure to toxic substances like pesticides, herbicides, rat poison, or antifreeze, bacterial and fungal infections, and excessive intake of antibiotics, blood pressure medications, and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Acute renal failure can also occur due to dehydration, and certain diseases like congestive heart failure and shock. Chronic renal failure, on the other hand, can be caused by factors like the formation of kidney stones, congenital and genetic kidney diseases, immune disorders, and kidney tumors and cancer.
Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Failure
Dogs can exhibit different symptoms depending on whether the renal failure is acute or chronic. The most common symptom is increased urination or a failure to urinate. Increased urination along with increased thirst are the symptoms of chronic renal failure, while failure to produce urine is a sign of acute renal failure.
Increased urination causes the loss of excessive fluid from the body, which in turn can cause dehydration. Dehydration can force the affected dog to drink more water. On the other hand, a dog is likely to produce very little or no urine with acute kidney failure. Dogs with acute renal failure can also suffer from diarrhea and vomiting.
Some other symptoms of this condition are, loss of appetite (which eventually causes weight loss), nausea, vomiting, lethargy, weakness, diarrhea, bad breath, blood in urine, and seizures. Kidney problems can cause high blood pressure, which in turn can result in sudden blindness in dogs. You can also observe a stiff gait and an arching back in your pet.
Diagnosis and Treatment
This condition is diagnosed with the help of blood tests and urinalysis. The levels of waste products like urea and creatinine increase in blood due to renal failure. Therefore, the blood is tested to determine the levels of these two substances. To restore the functions of the kidneys, the affected dog is given intravenous fluid.
Fluid therapy may help restore the functions of the kidneys for a couple of weeks to a few years. However, it has been observed that the kidneys can function as long as the treatment is continued. Once the treatment is stopped, they fail to carry out their normal functions.
If fluid therapy can restore the functions of the kidneys, then veterinarians can suggest some medications and a special diet to help the kidneys perform their functions as long as possible. The diet of an affected dog should be low in proteins and phosphorus, but should include sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D3.
Such a diet would put less pressure on the kidneys. Along with a special diet, your dog may need subcutaneous administration of fluid to stimulate the kidneys from time to time. Sometimes, dialysis is recommended by veterinarians to remove the toxins accumulated in the blood. This can prolong the lifespan of the affected animal.
Generally, dogs are more prone to develop kidney failure with advancing age. Therefore, it is a common health problem among the older dogs. It is also common in certain dog breeds like shih-tzu and Cocker Spaniel. Whenever you observe any change in your pet's urinating habit, be sure to inform a veterinarian, as this could be a sign of renal failure.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.