Renal (Kidney) Failure In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

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Renal or kidney failure in dogs happens when the kidneys are no longer able to properly filter nitrogen and other waste from the blood stream.

It can be an acute condition that appears suddenly with severe symptoms, or it can be a chronic condition that appears over time, in which case symptoms may be mild and gradually worsen until they are noticeable. Acute renal failure in dogs can result from exposure to toxins, severe kidney infection, or other causes.

Chronic renal failure in dogs, on the other hand, can be caused by kidney disease, urinary blockage, genetics, and other factors. If you see the signs of acute or chronic kidney failure in your dog, then you must get to a veterinarian right away for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Here’s what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for kidney failure in dogs.

Symptoms Of Renal Failure In Dogs

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The symptoms of acute and chronic renal failure in dogs are similar in nature, though they vary in severity and how quickly they come on.

Dogs who suffer from chronic renal failure may not show any signs, or symptoms may be so mild that they’re unnoticeable at first, but they gradually get worse with time as the condition progresses.

Conversely, symptoms of acute renal failure come on suddenly and severely, are very noticeable, and require immediate emergency treatment.

If you see any of the following signs of kidney failure in your dog, then get to your veterinarian immediately:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Dehydration
  • Blood in urine
  • Vomiting
  • Bad breath
  • Pale gums
  • Diarrhea
  • Black stool
  • Constipation
  • Stomach, intestine, or mouth ulcers
  • Brownish tongue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Disorientation
  • Changes in mental state
  • Loss of coordination
  • Sudden blindness
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Causes Of Renal Failure In Dogs

A woman stands in front of firewood and antifreeze with snow shovels as she shops at Safeway in Bowie, Maryland, on January 20, 2016, as weather forecasters predict an incoming snow blizzard to the area. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

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There are several possible causes of acute and chronic renal failure in dogs.

Acute renal failure often happens when dogs suffer exposure to poison or toxins. This especially happens during winter months when dogs have access to antifreeze. Toxic foods, certain drugs, poisonous plants, other chemicals, and snake or insect bites and stings are also potential causes of poisoning that can lead to acute renal failure.

Acute renal failure can be caused by severe infection, especially from the bacteria Leptospira, which is acquired by drinking water contaminated by infected animals.

Anaphylactic shock, injury, heart failure, blood clots, Addison’s disease, pancreatitis, liver failure, high or low blood pressure, Lyme disease, urinary tract rupture, or several other conditions may also cause acute renal failure in dogs. Anything that decreases blood flow through the kidneys is a potential cause.

Chronic renal failure in dogs can be caused by multiple instances of acute renal failure. Sometimes it’s just a consequence of age, as the kidneys suffer from usual wear and tear.

Often it results from kidney disease, a blockage of the urinary tract such as bladder or kidney stones, use of certain prescription medications, or genetic factors.

Some breeds have a predisposition to chronic renal failure, including Bull Terriers, Cairn Terriers, English Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds, and Samoyeds.

Treatments For Renal Failure In Dogs

MUMBAI, INDIA - JUNE 3, 2010: Six year old dog Rocky at the Renal Dialysis Unit for the dialysis treament at Mumbain Veterinary College at Parel on Tuesday. Rocky is the first dog who was given this treatment at the Unit which was inaugurated on Tuesday on the occassion of the veterinary college entering its 125th year on August 2. (Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

(Picture Credit: Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Treatment for acute renal failure and chronic renal failure in dogs usually begins with intravenous fluids to help remove toxic waste from the blood, improve hydration, and slow progression of the condition.

Dogs who don’t respond to intravenous fluids may also need dialysis or hemodialysis. The veterinarian may temporarily put in a feeding tube for dogs who suffer from extreme loss of appetite.

Antacids such as famotidine, ranitidine, or omeprazole may be given to dogs to help with diarrhea and vomiting. If it is suspected that the condition is the result of toxin ingestion, then activated charcoal may be given to bind the substance and help it be removed from the body through feces, urine, or vomit.

Generally, dogs who go through renal failure need dietary changes so they consume less protein, phosphorus, and sodium. They may need elevated levels of potassium and fatty acids added to their diets.

The prognosis for treatment varies, and the extent of treatment depends on the causes of the renal failure, the severity of the condition, and the individual dog. Your vet will prescribe the best course of action based on your dog’s specific needs.

Do you take steps to keep your dog’s kidneys healthy? Do you keep up with regular vet visits to find health issues early? Let us know in the comments below!