Treatment of renal failure in dogs

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Chris White

    The kidneys are the body's most important system for eliminating toxins and other harmful substances, which is why any "malfunction" of this organ greatly affects the health of the dog.

    Since pathological processes in the kidneys develop very slowly, the owner of the pet often notices the presence of problems in his pet rather late. To stop the disease in its early stages and have time to help the dog maintain health, you should pay attention to any, even very small "bells", signaling that something is wrong with your pet.

    We will tell you about the manifestations of such a difficult disease as renal failure in dogs, its diagnosis and treatment tactics.

    Causes and stages of the disease

    As we have said, the kidneys are a powerful filter in the body that cleans the blood of various harmful substances. Naturally, this does not go away for them, and the cells of the kidney tissue begin to die off gradually. The work of the dead cells take over the remaining ones and continue to work in an increased mode, so initially it does not affect the health of the dog.

    Most often, renal failure begins to appear in an animal at an older age, because the process of cell destruction is not rapid.

    The first signs of the disease appear when the dog has more than half of its kidney tissue already affected. At first glance it seems that with this development the animal has little chance for life, but this is not true, because if the treatment of the disease is started at this stage, your pet will be with you for a long time yet.

    Two forms of the disease are distinguished:

    1. Acute renal failure in dogs develops rapidly and has all the symptoms inherent to the disease, but is less common than the chronic form.
    2. Chronic kidney failure (CKD) is the most common variant of the pathology and develops over a long period of time.

    Depending on how badly kidney cells are affected, there are several stages of the disease:

    1. Initial stage - less than 50% of dead cells.
    2. The clinical stage is about 50% kidney damage.
    3. The final stage is more than 70% dead kidney tissue.

    It's clear to everyone that it's easiest and most effective to treat kidney failure in its early stages, but to do so you need to catch the first symptoms and go straight to the vet.

    Signs of the disease

    Some of the symptoms indicating that your dog is developing kidney failure may be similar to other conditions. These include:

    • lethargy, apathy;
    • lack of appetite.

    But there are other signs that specifically indicate kidney failure:

    • a strong thirst;
    • rapid urination;
    • the smell of acetone on your breath.

    And the combination of two symptoms - thirst and frequent urination - are the most characteristic of this disease.

    Acute renal failure may have the following manifestations:

    • vomiting;
    • diarrhea;
    • discoloration of the mucous membranes;
    • swelling.

    In the final stage, when the body is severely poisoned by harmful substances, the characteristic symptoms of intoxication appear:

    • mucosal ulceration;
    • trembling;
    • cramps.

    If you are experiencing similar symptoms, we recommend that you visit your veterinarian as soon as possible to examine your dog to find out what is causing the condition. Early diagnosis of renal failure is the key to successful treatment and prolonging the life of your pet.


    As we have already noted, the primary stage of the disease does not have pronounced symptoms, and with the help of laboratory tests it is difficult to determine it, because the kidneys are still doing their job well, despite the changes that have begun in them.

    When the clinical stage occurs, blood tests for urea and creatinine reveal an increase in these values, and this is what gives you an indication that your dog has diseased kidneys.

    If you have even a slight suspicion that your pet has a kidney problem, you should have periodic tests to determine urea and creatinine levels and when they approach the upper limit of normal, discuss further action with your veterinarian.

    Disease treatment

    The treatment of a condition such as renal failure in dogs is carried out in almost the same way in all cases.

    First, to relieve body intoxication, infusion therapy is prescribed, that is, the introduction of solutions that cleanse the body of toxins. In addition to purification, recovery of lost fluid is achieved, and the dog ceases to feel constant thirst, and the load on the kidneys, which are working in an increased mode, is reduced.

    The schedule of these infusions will depend directly on the degree of illness, i.e. the more severe the case, the more often the solution will need to be administered. For example, in the final stages the dog has to be given drips or intravenous injections several times a day, while the initial stages can get by with subcutaneous injections once every few days.

    As an adjunctive treatment, infusion therapy may be supplemented with some medication.

    And another very important factor in the treatment of kidney failure is the diet that the dog will follow for the rest of his life.

    Diet for a dog with kidney problems

    Nowadays, almost every line of food has specialised nutrition for dogs with kidney disease, so you can easily find the right and well-balanced diet for your pet.

    But if your dog is used to eating natural foods, when feeding, remember the recommendations that will help keep your dog healthy and stop the progression of kidney failure:

    1. Fat gives your dog the energy he needs to live and is easy to digest, but you shouldn't add too much fat to his diet. A dog suffering from BPH will benefit from the addition of eggs, fatty meats and butter, but sunflower oil and fish oil can be detrimental.
    2. Eggs can be used as a source of protein, but no more than one per day, and raw chicken, rabbit and by-products can also be offered. The amount of protein consumed depends on the degree of CKD: the higher the degree, the less protein the dog is entitled to.
    3. Meat bones, cheese and fish with bones should not be given as they contain a lot of phosphorus, which is dangerous for dogs with kidney problems.
    4. Care should be taken to minimize carbohydrate intake, i.e. no oatmeal with milk, biscuits, muffins etc. Carbohydrates should be complex and low in phosphorus, which is what rice does.
    5. Another important factor in ensuring your dog's well-being is to limit the salt in his diet, which should be eliminated. It is worth bearing in mind that it is also present in prepared foods, such as cottage cheese, canned goods, etc.
    6. The dog should always have fresh drinking water within easy reach.
    7. Since the appetite of a sick dog may not be very good, you should offer the dog the food that he likes best.

    Following a diet is not only a treatment, but also a prevention of kidney problems. If your pet is still diagnosed with kidney failure, there is no need to get upset, as the prognosis for dogs with this disease, detected in the early stages, is very good. With the right diet, treatment and care, your dog will have a long life yet.

    We hope that our article will only be a source of information for you and that you will not have to apply its recommendations in real life!

    Read also: Abdominal ascites in dogs.

    Hi, I'm Chris White. I blog about animals and work as a professional writer. I've always been interested in the natural world, and love sharing what I learn with others. I have a BSc in Zoology from the University of Bristol, and worked as a research scientist for several years before becoming a full-time writer. My writing has appeared in publications such as BBC Wildlife Magazine, BBC Earth, The Guardian, and The Observer. I'm also passionate about animal conservation, and have volunteered with several organisations including the Born Free Foundation and Viva!