The kidneys are vital organs in dogs, as with all mammals. They are responsible for removing toxins from the blood and excreting them from the body in the form of urine.
They also help regulate blood acidity levels and blood pressure, increase the production of red blood cells, prevent loss of water, and maintain an overall healthy metabolic balance.
Kidney or renal diseases refer to any condition that impairs the regular functioning of the kidney, and these can vary in severity.
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Types of Kidney Disease in Dogs
Kidney disease can be classified into the following ways:
Acute renal disease
Kidney failure is said to be acute when it occurs as a result of another condition such as cancer or kidney stones or the consumption of something toxic like household cleaners or spoiled food. The symptoms of acute kidney failure in dogs are often severe and can occur rapidly.
However, they can sometimes be treated and resolved, depending on the cause.
Chronic renal disease
Chronic renal disease is more prevalent in older dogs. It is an irreversible long-term condition that progresses over time. Symptoms of chronic kidney disease may appear suddenly, but these symptoms are observed because a lot of damage has been done already to the dog’s kidneys.
Early signs of chronic kidney failure in dogs are often overlooked or dismissed due to how mild they are.
Chronic renal disease can sometimes develop as a result of dental disease in dogs. Bacteria from the teeth build up and enter the digestive system when eating or drinking.
This buildup can impair the function of the kidneys over time. Acute kidney disease in dogs may also develop into the chronic form of the condition.
There is no cure for chronic kidney disease in dogs. However, early intervention can limit the damage to the kidneys and slow the progression of the disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Disease in Dogs
Symptoms of kidney disease in dogs can vary between cases because the kidneys are responsible for so many functions within the body. Symptoms can appear suddenly or develop over time.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Drinking excessively and urinating more frequently due to the kidneys’ inability to conserve water.
- Soiling in the home due to the large volumes of urine
- Loss of appetite
- Pale gums due to anaemia
- Weight loss
- Overall weakness or dullness
- Mouth ulcers
- Fragile bones
- Sudden blindness due to high blood pressure
The symptoms above can be caused by other conditions that are less severe. It is necessary to see the vet as soon as possible to detect the cause of the symptoms.
Diagnosis occurs by testing blood and urine samples which typically show abnormalities linked to the condition. It can sometimes take a lot of kidney damage before tests can show traces of the disease, but newer testing methods are now appearing, which offer the chance of detecting the condition early.
High blood pressure is often observed in dogs with chronic renal failure. While this may be a useful indicator of the condition, there are several other causes attributed to it.
Ultrasounds and X-rays may prove useful in detecting kidney disease as the organs often change size and appearance when suffering from renal failure.
Once it has been determined that the dog has kidney disease, the vets may assess their blood to ascertain the stage of the condition as this can help determine treatment.
The stages range from stage 1, where dogs show evidence of the condition but no change in kidney function, to stage 4, where the condition makes the dog unwell.
Treatment options include the following:
Diet is the primary key to managing kidney disease in dogs. A specially formulated diet can help individually-tailored diets such as those low in sodium, protein, and calcium but high in omega 3 fatty acids.
However, these changes in diet will depend on the stage of renal disease in the dog; it is, therefore, necessary to take advice from the doctor before changing diet.
Unfortunately, a protein-deficient diet for dogs can often make food unappealing to them, and it’s crucial to ensure your pet continues to eat.
Keeping your pet well hydrated is also crucial, so always ensure they have a supply of clean water.
A range of medications is available to treat each dog’s symptoms, whether primary or secondary – from eye problems to sickness.
Supplements can also be used to replace essential vitamins lost in kidney disease patients, and phosphorus binders and vitamin D supplements can be used to try to reduce some of the secondary effects of renal disease by improving calcium and phosphorus balance.
Medications can vary depending on the stage of the illness and the symptoms the dog is showing.
This can help reduce dehydration that occurs as a result of renal disease and kidney failure. Fluid therapy can replace depleted body fluid levels and help the kidneys remove the toxins in the body.
This can be administered through an intravenous drip or injected under the skin.