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Chronic Kidney Disease: What Does Kidney Failure in Dogs Really Mean?

Posted May 08, 2015 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Dog laying on floor

Kidney disease is more common as dogs age. It is estimated that about 1 in 10 dogs will develop kidney disease over a lifetime1, so it’s an important topic to understand. When healthy, the two kidneys efficiently:

  • Filter the blood
  • Process protein wastes and excrete them into the urine
  • Conserve and balance body water, salts and acids
  • Help to maintain normal red blood cells

Kidney disease occurs when one or more of these functions are compromised or reduced. Unfortunately, it typically goes undetected until the organs are functioning at approximately 33% to 25% of their capacity. Dogs with moderate to severe chronic kidney disease (CKD) are prone to dehydration and you may notice that your dog is lethargic and has a poor appetite. Treatment options for advanced kidney disease are usually limited to treating the symptoms because dialysis and kidney transplants are not readily available for dogs. Protecting your pooch from kidney disease means you should be prepared to look for problems early.

Causes of of chronic kidney disease in dogs
The International Renal Interest Society or IRIS is a group of veterinary specialists studying  kidney disease in dogs and cats. They list several risk factors that make pets more susceptible to kidney disease, such as age or breed, and investigate reversible factors that initiate or accelerate kidney damage. Such factors include:

Signs of chronic kidney disease in dogs
One of the earliest signs of kidney disease in dogs is urinating and drinking more (polyuria/polydipsia or PU/PD). Often, dogs need to urinate at nighttime (nocturia) or have "accidents." There are many other causes of PU/PD, but kidney disease is one of the most serious concerns. Taking water away from your dog could make chronic kidney disease worse, so please don’t try to do this without your veterinarian’s direction. Having your dog examined promptly when you note a change in water intake and urine production is key! Dogs tend to be pretty sensitive to changes in their blood levels of waste so even mild to moderate changes may cause signs of illness.

Other signs of chronic kidney disease include:

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Celeste has more than 20 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is an Internal Medical Consultant as well as a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2015.