Kidney failure is often the end of a long journey, which begins with dogs are initially diagnosed with kidney disease, perhaps years prior. If or when dogs do reach the point of kidney failure, many owners will have pain management at the forefront of their minds.
Chronic kidney (renal) failure occurs when a dog’s kidneys no longer function efficiently, or at all. This means that the organ doesn’t successfully filter out toxins, acids, and salts from the body. It also can’t help hydrate the body, nor provide the hormones dogs need to produce and regulate vital substances, such as red blood cells.
Acute kidney failure
It’s worth mentioning that not all kidney failure is the result of a long term condition, occurring over a prolonged period. As opposed to chronic renal failure, acute renal failure can happen quite suddenly, over the course of hours or days.
Acute failure normally happens when dogs ingest toxic substances, such as antifreeze, NSAIDs, and raisins or grapes. Eating these poisons can send their bodies into toxic shock, with the kidneys becoming overwhelmed and shutting down—or sending dangerous amounts of minerals such as potassium into the bloodstream (according to Blue Pearl Vets).
Acute kidney failure can also occur when a dog’s kidneys don’t receive adequate blood flow. So severe dehydration, heatstroke, and infection can all have a negative effect on these vital organs.
Most cases of chronic kidney failure occur in older dogs, with up to ten percent of pups expected to develop chronic kidney issues at some point in their lifetime (according to the Merk Veterinary Manual).
The prognosis for dogs with kidney failure is highly individualized, depending on the age and overall health of dogs, as well as the stage of organ failure they’ve reacher. However, with the right care from vets and owners, dogs are able to survive—and thrive—with as little as 5%–8% of functioning kidney tissue.
Kidney failure symptoms
Because a dog’s kidneys will continue to function, at least partly, while being affected by a disease or condition, many dogs won’t be diagnosed with kidney failure until their organs are functioning at around 30 percent of their normal capacity (according to Pearl Health Network).
As a result, it’s important to keep an eye on your dog’s drinking and hydration habits, as these are most likely to reveal an early stage kidney infection or disease. If your dog is experiencing:
- Trouble peeing
- Leaking or incontinence
- Repeated drinking or acting dehydrated, even though they’ve recently had a drink
- A reduced appetite (especially when combined with lethargy)
Because kidney failure is a serious condition, it may unfortunately result in discomfort or pain for a dog. While the kidneys themselves may not cause a dog pain, organ failure can lead to conditions like nausea, anemia, and severe dehydration, all with their own uncomfortable symptoms. Luckily, there are many things that vets and owners can do to mitigate any negative side effects of kidney issues.
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The International Renal Interest Society recommends that vets prescribe a treatment plan that preserves remaining kidney function while also ensuring a dog’s quality of life. To achieve this, dogs are often given a course of medication alongside a new lifestyle routine. Owners and vets should be encouraged to work together if the following key areas related to good kidney functioning: