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Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs

Kidney failure can be caused by anything from a hereditary condition to dental disease. This makes routine checkups and preventive care vital to your furry friend. Here, our vets in Greeley discuss the causes and symptoms of acute kidney failure in dogs and the prognosis.

What is kidney failure in dogs?

Kidney failure, also known as renal failure, is caused by various diseases that affect the kidneys and other organs. A healthy kidney regulates hydration, maintains a normal electrolyte balance, releases hormones required for red blood cell production, and eliminates toxins.

Acute Renal Failure

Kidney function can deteriorate rapidly in a matter of mere hours or days. This is referred to as acute renal failure, and it is usually caused by consuming toxins or contracting infections.

Chronic renal failure differs from acute renal failure in that acute kidney failure can be reversed if treated early and aggressively, whereas chronic kidney failure can only be managed.

What causes kidney failure in dogs?

Any disease that affects the kidneys can cause them to fail, such as:

Congenital Disease: This category includes hereditary conditions and underlying illnesses such as cysts and agenesis (being born missing one or both kidneys).

Dental Disease: Bacterial buildup on teeth and gums can lead to advanced dental disease. The bacteria agglomerate here before entering the bloodstream and attacking multiple organs, causing irreversible damage to the kidneys, liver and heart.

Bacterial Infections: Drinking or swimming in contaminated water puts the body at risk of bacterial infections such as leptospirosis. This can result in inflamed kidneys and the death of renal cells.

Toxicosis: When the kidneys are poisoned, the cells within the kidneys can be damaged. This can occur if your dog ingests drugs or poisons (including substances or foods that are toxic to them).

Geriatric Degeneration: As your dog ages, the cells in their kidneys may break down and die, resulting in symptoms of kidney disease in dogs.

Signs of Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs

Watch for these common symptoms of kidney failure:

  • Lethargy
  • Significant weight loss
  • Pale gums
  • Breath that smells like chemicals
  • Significant decrease in appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Increase or decrease in water intake
  • Increase or decrease in urine volume
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Drunken behavior or uncoordinated movement, such as stumbling
  • Blood in urine
  • Intestinal seizures

A few factors, such as the type of kidney failure your dog may be experiencing, the extent of kidney function loss, the progression of the condition, and its underlying causes, can indicate whether kidney problems or other internal health issues, such as diabetes mellitus, are causing the symptoms.

Is acute kidney failure painful for dogs?

Unfortunately, kidney failure can be painful for dogs due to the impact of the kidneys no longer filtering toxins out of their body.

Diagnosing Acute (Renal) Kidney Failure in Dogs

Your vet will run a series of blood and urine tests to confirm that your pup is suffering from kidney failure and to get a complete picture of the extent of the disease. Diagnostic tests like radiographs (X-rays), ultrasound, blood tests and urinalysis are typically used when diagnosing acute kidney failure. These test results will also give your vet a more complete picture of the extent of the condition. In some cases, a biopsy of the kidney may also be recommended.

Treatment for Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs

Acute renal failure is a very serious health risk for dogs. Hospitalization and intensive care may be required to save your pup's life. Hospital staff will very closely monitor your dog's heart rate, blood pressure, and overall condition while providing appropriate medications and treatments such as:

  • IV fluids to hydrate and flush out the kidneys. Once IV fluids have been administered, your veterinary team will monitor your pet's urine production to see signs of improvement.
  • Kidney dialysis (Hemodialysis)
  • Peritoneal dialysis (Feeding a tube directly into the pet's stomach to supply fluids, which will be removed after some time to help flush out toxins).
  • Antibiotics may be administered if the cause of your dog's kidney failure is an infection.
  • Medications may be given to prevent or treat stomach ulcers (which are a common side effect of acute kidney failure).
  • A feeding tube may sometimes be required until your dog feels better and can eat independently.

What is the survival rate for dogs with acute kidney failure?

This condition is very serious, and sadly, when it comes to acute kidney failure in dogs, the life expectancy and survival rate are low. It is estimated that more than half of pets suffering from acute kidney failure either die from the condition or are euthanized to prevent suffering.

That said, if caught early and treated aggressively, some dogs can recover from acute kidney failure.

Following a complete examination, testing and a diagnosis of acute kidney failure in dogs, the vet will provide a realistic prognosis. Your veterinarian will also provide you with an estimate of treatment costs and help guide you through the most appropriate approach to treatment for your pup.

How can I prevent my dog from suffering from kidney failure?

Because acute kidney failure is frequently caused by ingesting tainted foods, foods they should not eat (including grapes), or interactions with toxins, dog owners can often prevent this condition.

Examine your home through your dog's eyes, remove potential toxins like ethylene glycol-based antifreeze (which is toxic to dogs), and keep medications and other dangerous-for-dog foods or substances out of reach of their inquisitive nose.

Taking your dog for regular dental cleanings and exams can help prevent the buildup of harmful plaque and bacteria in your dog's mouth, which could spread to organs throughout the body.

Unfortunately, chronic kidney failure is frequently age-related and genetically predetermined. On the other hand, bringing your dog in for regular wellness checkups increases the likelihood of detecting these issues early. Your veterinarian may then be able to devise a treatment plan.

Your dog's kidney failure can be diagnosed and possibly treated with the help of your veterinarian, giving them a chance to live a long and happy life. It's time to make an appointment if you suspect your dog is suffering from chronic or acute kidney failure.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog showing kidney failure symptoms? Contact St. Michaels Companion Animal Hospital right away to book an urgent examination or visit your nearest emergency animal hospital.

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St. Michaels Companion Animal Hospital is always happy to welcome new patients to our animal hospital. Get in touch today to get started!

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