Laughing Pug Dog in a Field of Yellow FlowersYour dog has a pair of kidneys just like you do and like yours, they are vital organs and necessary for life. They automatically perform many remarkable tasks which help to keep your pet healthy and happy. Knowing the symptoms of kidney disease in dogs is important for pet parents of dogs of all ages because there are two types of canine kidney disease: Acute and Chronic.

Lets have a look at both.

Acute Canine Kidney Disease has an immediate cause and the dog has a sudden onset of kidney dysfunction.

One all-too-common cause of acute kidney disease is the pet ingesting poison, such as antifreeze. Antifreeze is a syrupy liquid that some dogs (cats too) find irresistible and will readily lick from a driveway or garage floor. Ethylene glycol is the active ingredient in antifreeze and it will quickly go to work blocking the nephrons in your pet’s kidneys.

Grapes or raisins are also detrimental to canine kidneys and should be considered ‘poisonous’ to your dog.

Other causes of acute kidney failure in dogs include contaminated food, certain medications such as human NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), Lyme disease or the bacterial disease Leptospirosis.

Shock can also be a cause of acute kidney dysfunction. Shock can result from trauma, blood loss, heatstroke, allergic reactions or severe infections.  All of the above scenarios would of course require immediate veterinary attention.

Chronic Canine Kidney Disease, on the other hand, is typically related to the aging process.

As a dog’s body ages, it tends to ‘wear out’ just as a human body does. The early symptoms of kidney disease in dogs may start to occur at age 10 to 14 years in a small breed dog. Larger breed dogs have a shorter lifespan and can exhibit signs of kidney problems as early 7 or 8 years old.Side View of an Old Chocolate Labrador's Face

Researchers estimate that over 1 in 10 dogs will develop chronic kidney disease over the course of a lifetime, so if you own a senior dog, there’s no need for you to become paranoid about the symptoms of kidney disease in dogs. But when it comes to the health of our precious pets, it’s a good idea to understand the fundamentals of this disease and especially what the signs are. This way, if any behavioral changes occur in your older dog, you’ll have a clue as to what may be going on and what you should do about it.

What Does a Dog’s Kidneys Do?

Your dog’s kidneys (much like your kidneys), are multitaskers. The long detailed version of a dog’s kidney functions would take several long lectures and involve lots of big words which the average dog lover doesn’t need to learn about right now, so we’ll go with the simplified nutshell version.

Your dog’s kidneys are responsible for: 

  • Being a pair of life-sustaining filters. They filter waste products and toxins from his bloodstream and collect them as urine. The filtered urine then goes from the kidneys to the bladder to be expelled from the body
  • Maintaining and regulating normal concentrations of salt, water and acids in his body
  • Secreting a variety of essential hormones including erythropoietin which stimulates red blood cell production in the bone marrow
  • Controlling blood pressure and maintaining macro-mineral levels (sodium, potassium, phosphorous, calcium)

Bottom line and also in a nutshell:

If your dog’s kidneys stop functioning properly, toxins will build up in his bloodstream and he will become sick.

What Are the Symptoms of Kidney Disease in Dogs?

Symptoms of Acute Canine Kidney Disease

  • increased thirst and water consumption, but a decrease in urine volume
  • noticeable bad breath
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • abdominal pain ~ dogs with abdominal pain are often restless and can’t get comfortable. You may notice him whining or standing with his head hanging down
  • weakness, lethargy, or depression

Whether the prognosis is good for a dog that has acute kidney disease depends on how quickly the underlying cause can be identified and treated, and the extent of the damage to the animal’s kidneys.

The good news is that prompt treatment may very well be able to reverse the damage. The bad news is that the symptoms can appear within hours or even days of the immediate cause. So if the owner of the affected pet doesn’t actually witness (for example) the dog lapping antifreeze from the driveway, it would be longer before that owner sought veterinary help, making the prognosis worse.

Veterinary treatment usually requires the dog to be hospitalized with intravenous fluid therapy, medication, and a diet formulated to support renal function. Many dogs fully recover with treatment, while others may eventually progress to the chronic form of the disease.

Symptoms of Chronic Canine Kidney Disease

  • increased thirst and water consumptionBrown and White Pit Bull Drinking Water from a Bowl
  • urinating large amounts
  • weight loss
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy or depression
  • very bad breath
  • ulcers in the mouth and anemia in the later stages

The earliest clinical signs of chronic kidney disease in your dog are increased thirst and urination. Therefore, if you have an older dog who is exhibiting increased thirst and urination, now is the time to take him to the vet. The other symptoms become more apparent as toxins build in the dog’s body and the longer you wait to seek medical treatment, the worse the prognosis for your pet.

What is the Treatment for Chronic Canine Kidney Disease?

Kidney tissue does not regenerate itself and there is no cure for chronic kidney disease; However, dogs can live for years with the right care. What the right care is depends on the severity of the condition. Good management of chronic kidney disease focuses on early detection and treatments designed to slow the progressive damage to the kidneys themselves.

Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition in your dog with a combination of blood work (including measuring blood pressure) and a complete urinalysis. The best case scenario and prognosis for the animal would be of course, to identify and begin treating kidney disease in its earliest stages.

Depending on the results of testing, different treatments would be recommended depending on individual cases. Most veterinarians use the International Renal Interest Society (IRIS) staging system to classify how severe the dog’s condition is, and what treatment would best extend a good quality of life for the pet. Treatments include:

  • Fluid therapy ~ Intravenous fluid therapy may be recommended at first to flush out the build-up of toxins. This would require veterinary hospitalization early on, but home treatment of extra fluids may also be on the agenda. The owner may be advised to administer subcutaneous fluids to the pet at regular intervals, and switch to strictly canned food for added moisture content. And of course, plenty of fresh water in the water bowl available at all times.A Drop of Clear Water Splashing Into Clear Water
  • Medication ~ What medicines the vet would advise would be specific to the symptoms and biochemical abnormalities of each patient. Drugs or supplements may be needed to treat anemia, lower blood pressure, promote kidney function, or raise potassium levels. Anti-nausea treatments may also be needed.
  • Diet ~ Appropriate nutrition with a kidney-friendly diet will most definitely be recommended by the good doctor. Many of these kidney-friendly pet diets are available and this should be the only thing you feed your dog. (Although some of these pet companies also make kidney-friendly treats for dogs which are O.K. too.)
  • Nutritional Supplements ~ Probiotic supplements like Azodyl (to reduce blood urea nitrogen), potassium supplements, and omega-3 fatty acids to protect the kidneys.

After the vet has run the appropriate tests, he or she will be able to give a good rundown of the dog’s condition, what treatment(s) are recommended, and what the prognosis is for the pet.

Conclusion ~ A Nutshell Again

In my conclusion to this article, I would like to put in a nutshell the main ideas that I hope you take away from this post:

1.) There are 2 types of kidney disease in dogs, Acute and Chronic.

Acute canine kidney disease is a sudden onset and usually caused by some sort of poisoning, a bacterial infection, shock, or certain medications. Immediate veterinary attention should be sought.

Chronic canine kidney disease generally occurs in senior dogs and is considered to be a ‘wearing out’ process. If you are the pet parent of an older dog, it’s a good idea to know what the symptoms are. 

2.) Your dog’s kidneys perform many essential tasks. If they stop functioning properly, toxins will build up in his body and he will become ill.

3.) If you have an older dog, you should familiarize yourself with all of the listed symptoms. But please realize that “Increased Thirst and Urination” are the earliest clinical signs of chronic canine kidney disease; When you first notice these symptoms is when you should take him to the vet.

4.) Listen to the doctor. He or she will be honest with you about what tests need to be run, what treatment the stage of your dog’s condition would require, and what the prognosis is. Consider whether or not you would be able to handle any home treatment required.

By the way, if the vet doesn’t bring up how much money the recommendations will cost, ASK. Never be afraid to ask your veterinarian anything. This is after all, your beloved pet and you are ultimately the one making the decisions, in the best interests of both you and your dog.Rear View of a Woman and Her Dog Sitting Side by Side at a Lake

I hope you’ve learned from reading about the Symptoms of Kidney Disease in Dogs. Please leave me any comments, question, or experience you’d like to share in the comment section below. Thanks for visiting My Geriatric Dog!