Azotemia (High Blood Nitrogen Levels) In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

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Azotemia in dogs is a buildup of nitrogen-based substances, which include waste like urea, creatinine, old cells, and food in the bloodstream.

It’s most commonly caused by improper filtration in the kidneys. However, it can also happen because of reabsorption of urine into the bloodstream, unusually high production of nitrogenous substances from a high protein diet or gastrointestinal bleeding, or other conditions.

The prognosis depends on the cause of the condition and how far it has progressed, especially if there’s kidney damage. If you see the signs in your dog, then you must consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment, as the condition can become deadly.

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

Symptoms Of Azotemia In Dogs

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The symptoms of azotemia in dogs are often only visible after some kidney damage has happened, which is one of the reasons it is so important to see a vet at the first signs. Symptoms may become more severe as the condition progresses.

Here are some of the symptoms that you may see in dogs with azotemia:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Excess urination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle loss
  • Bad breath
  • Hypothermia
  • Unhealthy coat
  • Skin discoloration or paleness
  • Small red or purple spots on skin (blood vessel hemorrhages)
  • Bruising
  • Coma
  • Death

Causes Of Azotemia In Dogs

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There are several possible causes of azotemia in dogs, though it’s usually the result of renal (kidney) disease or injury. The cause of the disorder helps determine what type of azotemia will be diagnosed.

Prerenal azotemia happens when the kidney functions poorly from blood loss or low blood pressure.

Renal azotemia happens when there is kidney failure.

Postrenal azotemia occurs when there is a blockage or damage to the non-kidney urinary tract.

Here are several conditions that can lead to high levels of nitrogen in the bloodstream in dogs:

  • Kidney disease
  • Kidney injury
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Shock
  • Blood loss or low blood pressure
  • High fever
  • Sepsis
  • Dehydration
  • Acidosis
  • Infections
  • Exposure to corticosteroids
  • High protein diet
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Stress
  • Urinary tract obstruction
  • Urinary tract cancer (transitional cell carcinoma)

Treatments For Azotemia In Dogs

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The first step in treatment for azotemia in dogs is to restore fluids and electrolytes if there are signs of dehydration. Treatment beyond that depends highly on the cause of the condition.

For example, vets may provide antibiotics or other medication to treat infections. They will treat other underlying conditions accordingly.

If there’s kidney damage, as is often the case, then vets usually put dogs on special diets that are low in protein, sodium, and phosphorus and rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and potassium citrate. Vets may additionally prescribe vitamin supplements for weight loss and medication for hypertension.

If your vet diagnoses your dog with high blood nitrogen levels, then you’ll need to follow their instructions closely, monitor your dog’s condition, and keep up with follow-up vet visits to make sure your pet stays as healthy as possible.

The prognosis varies depending on how much damage the kidneys have suffered, but good follow-up care helps.

Has your dog ever suffered from azotemia? What was the cause? Let us know in the comments below!