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

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Azotemia in dogs is a buildup of nitrogen-based substances, including waste like urea, creatinine, old cells, and food in the bloodstream. This can happen because of reabsorption of urine into the bloodstream, abnormally high production of nitrogenous substances due to a high protein diet or gastrointestinal bleeding, or other conditions, but it is most commonly caused by improper filtration in the kidneys. The prognosis for dogs with azotemia depends on the cause of the condition and how far it has progressed, especially if there is kidney damage. If you see the signs of azotemia in your dog, consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment, as the condition can become life-threatening. Here is 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 occurred, which is one of the reasons it is so important to see a veterinarian at the first signs of the condition. Symptoms may become more severe as the disorder progresses. Here are some of the symptoms that may be seen 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 is 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 is highly dependent on the cause of the condition. For example, antibiotics or other medication may be given to treat infections. Other underlying conditions will be treated accordingly.

If there is kidney damage, as is often the case, dogs are usually put on a special diet that is low in protein, sodium, and phosphorus and rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and potassium citrate. Vitamin supplements may be prescribed for weight loss, and medication may be given for hypertension. If your dog is diagnosed with azotemia, you’ll need to follow veterinary instructions closely, monitor their condition, and keep up with follow-up vet visits to make sure they stay 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!