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Dogs with Kidney Failure (Renal Failure)

Kidneys are important. They help regulate blood sugar, pressure and volume, pH levels, water composition, produce red blood cells and some hormones, and help remove waste. Kidney failure in dogs also known as Renal failure is a very serious disease. It has several causes but the result is waste accumulating in the blood which poisons the dog. Older dogs are more likely to get it than younger it is a progressive disease which means the symptoms will gradually worsen until death. If a dog has chronic kidney failure it means only 20 per cent of his kidneys are working and 80 per cent are damaged which is not enough to clear out the waste from his body. Nine out of a thousand dogs suffer from chronic renal disease and symptoms can progress very slowly. Sometimes you may not even realize there is something serious going on and put some of the symptoms down to old age. The problem with late diagnosis is it may be too late to be able to treat it. There is actual cure for kidney failure but there are some things that can be done if it is caught early enough to slow the progression and give the dog a better quality of life.


Reasons for kidney failure

Reasons are varied and depend on the age of the dog affected. If it is a young dog the problem may be a hereditary condition. Otherwise drugs, poisons, infections, stones are all possible causes too. Some dogs have an immune system that does not work as it should. Kidney failure could be as the result of one thing or a combination of factors, it might be the final diagnosis or a development of other diseases. Old age can see renal failure too and in fact you are more likely to see it in senior dogs. The difference between acute and chronic renal failure is that chronic sees less damage than acute and symptoms appear more gradually because the kidney still has some function for a time.

Breeds who may be more at risk

Breeds who are more prone to developing chronic kidney failure are;

German Shepherd

Bull Terrier

English Cocker Spaniel


Cairn Terrier

Symptoms to look for

Remember not all of these symptoms will show up all at once. It is a gradual development and they usually start to show up when the kidneys have already lost 70% function. However signs of kidney failure include;

Lack of appetite


Blood in the urine


Increased thirst

Weight loss

Mouth ulcers


Gait becomes uncoordinated


An increase in how much he pees and how often



Acute blindness

Seizures and comas

Diagnosis from your veterinarian

When you take your dog to the vet he or she will discuss medical background with you and do a physical of your dog. They will then have some tests done such as a complete blood profile, a blood count and a urinalysis. They will be looking for things like electrolyte levels that are abnormal, anemia and high blood pressure. High levels of certain chemicals and enzymes are also an indication of kidney failure. An X-ray or ultrasound may also be done to look at the size and shape of his kidneys and see if any abnormalities can be seen. For example many dogs with chronic kidney failure have abnormally small kidneys.

Treatment and care

There are really two phases to treating this serious condition. For dogs who are presenting severe symptoms they will need to be stabilized first, given intravenous solutions to feed and hydrated and medicines to control the vomiting. Then when they are sufficiently recovered there is the long term treatment. Remember there is no cure, this is just to slow down the loss of function.

Dogs with poor kidney function need to be on a very specific diet that limits sodium, protein and phosphorus. Also no human food should be given to them. Your vet will discuss with you a suitable food and diet to follow that is best for your dog and it will likely include supplements. Your dog will also need regular check up with his vet to monitor the condition. How the disease progresses cannot be predicted, it varies from one dog to another and depends on how severe it had progressed to already before you saw the vet. However it is possible to have anything from a few more months to a few more years together.



Keep poisons and things your dog should not be swallowing where he cannot reach them

Keep him up to date with his vaccinations

Do not give human medications to your dog

Salmon oil is a good supplement to add to senior dogs diets as it helps kidney function as well as giving him a healthy coat

Do not breed dogs who have chronic kidney disease

Make sure he always has access to fresh water

Use good quality dog food