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Kidney Failure In Dogs – Symptoms & Treatment

Kidney Failure In Dogs

Kidney problems in dogs can seem like a shocking diagnosis as they might end in kidney failure (AKA renal failure) someday. However, that depends on the circumstances.

Kidney failure is the outcome of any one of the several diseases that can affect the kidneys and related organs. Physiologically, it occurs when the kidneys can no longer efficiently perform their function, which is to remove wastes and extra fluids, maintain a healthy balance of electrolytes, control acid balance regulate hydration, control blood pressure, etc.

Kidney problems can be broadly classified into acute or chronic. Acute kidney failure happens suddenly (in hours or days), while chronic kidney failure happens gradually over time. For this reason, chronic kidney failure is also called ‘end-stage renal disease’.

Many people think that chronic kidney failure means that the kidneys are not making urine and have stopped working. That is not the case. By definition, chronic kidney disease is the failure of the kidneys to proficiently filter the blood of waste products. Still, kidneys produce large quantities of urine, but the toxic wastes in the dog’s body are not being effectively eliminated.

Symptoms Of Kidney Failure

Acute kidney failure symptoms:

  • Decreased urine output (occasionally normal)
  • Internal bleeding
  • Fluid retention of the face, legs, and ankles (edema)
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Fatigue/weakness
  • Nausea
  • High blood pressure

Chronic kidney failure:

  • Decreased urine output
  • Swelling of the hands, feet, and face (edema)
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss for no reason
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low red blood cell count (anemia)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Confusion
  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Itching
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures

Treatment Options For Kidney Failure

The treatment of kidney failure varies depending on the underlying cause, the dog's overall condition, and the severity of symptoms.

Sometimes, acute kidney failure dogs require hospitalization and intensive care to recover.

Aggressive treatments may include hospitalization for a kidney transplant, dialysis, Temporary Feeding Tube, or intravenous (IV) fluids.

For milder cases - Antibiotics, fluid therapy, and other medications

Chronic renal failure in dogs - Treatment protocol focuses on slowing the disease progression, and severity and improving the quality of life for the pet.

Peritoneal Dialysis: A tube is placed directly into the peritoneum in the abdomen, then the fluid is pushed into this membrane (acts as a natural filter) and dissolved substances are later drained out.

Hemodialysis: Dialysis using a dialysis machine

Treatment of appetite changes, blood pressure alterations, anemia, fluid imbalances, electrolyte disturbances, gastrointestinal problems, and nausea is typically necessary.

Home Remedies For Kidney Failure

Dog owners should consult with their veterinarian as soon as they notice the symptoms as some conditions can be very serious (and possibly fatal).

Prevention Of Kidney Failure

Keep dogs away from household chemicals such as antifreeze and other cleaners

Dogs can easily poke their nose through plastic bottles and ensure bottles are kept up high or in locked cabinets where dogs cannot reach them

Keep raisins, Grapes, prescription and OTC drugs, like ibuprofen out of reach of dogs

Clear away contaminated water sources

Talk to your vet about your dog’s dental hygiene and how often you should have your dog’s teeth cleaned

Vaccination against infectious diseases (like leptospirosis) can prove highly effective to prevent acute kidney failure

Affected Breeds Of Kidney Failure

There are many causes of kidney failure, so there is no breed disposition.

Congenital variety of kidney failure is most documented in

Bernese Mountain Dogs , English Cocker Spaniel, Bull Terrier, German Shepherd, Basenji

Additional Facts For Kidney Failure


  1. Bacterial Infections
  2. Congenital Disease
  3. Comorbidities
  4. Geriatric Degeneration
  5. Drugs and Toxicosis


Acute Kidney failure: Ingestion of toxins, chemicals like household cleaners, antifreeze, heat strokes, snake bites, etc

Chronic kidney disease: The exact cause is often difficult to identify because of its gradual onset. This is most common in older dogs and early symptoms are easily dismissed or overlooked because they are mild in nature.

Stages of kidney failure:

The International Renal Interest Society (IRIS): kidney failure is often progressive and stages of chronic renal failure are numbered 1 to 4 (with increasing severity).

There are higher chances of morbidity and mortality at stages 3 and 4.


Chronic kidney disease occurrence is 0.5% to 1.5% of all dogs

Chronic kidney failure is associated with aging due to the 'wearing out' of the kidney tissues. In Old dogs, other age-associated disease processes might play a role in the development of kidney failure.

The size of the dog also determines the age of onset

For most small dogs- their longer life span (age of onset: 10-14 yrs).

Large dogs: mostly has a shorter life span (age of onset: 7 years of age).


Median survival time for dogs:

Stage 1: >more than 400 days

Stage 2: 200 to 400 days

Stage 3: 110 to 200 days.


  • SDMA test: SDMA (a naturally occurring biological indicator for kidney function)
  • IRIS (The International Renal Interest Society) staging system - urine protein: creatinine ratio [UPC)


Remember that chronic renal failure cannot be cured but it is managed with consistent veterinary care. Many instances of acute renal failure can be reversed depending on the cause and with prompt treatment.

The stage or severity of the disease determines the prognosis.

When your dog progresses through every stage of renal failure, survival time gets reduced.

When To See A Vet

Contact your vet right away, if you notice any of the following:

  • Fluid retention of the face, legs, and ankles (edema)
  • Decreased or no urine output often

Food Suggestions For Kidney Failure

Foods to avoid:

  • Pretzels, chips, and crackers
  • Coconut
  • Chocolate, coffee, and caffeine
  • Grapes, purines, and raisins
  • Dairy, eggs
  • Salty/processed snack foods like canned and packaged snacks)
  • Macadamia and other nuts
  • Onions, garlic, chives
  • Raw, processed, or undercooked meat
  • Yeast dough
  • Xylitol

Special diet for kidney diseases:

Lower in protein, reduced amounts of sodium and phosphorus, with increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, and high-alkaline foods

Protein: 14-20%, 35 g/1000 kcal of high-quality protein

Sodium: ≤ 0.3%

Phosphorus: 0.2 - 0.5%

Potassium: 1.1- 2-3%

Omega-3 fatty acids: 1 g of EPA and DHA per 1000 kcal of diet = 25 mg/kg of DHA combined with 40 mg/kg EPA q24h

High alkaline foods:


Kidney failure in dogs, whether acute or chronic, that go untreated is deadly. If you suspect your dog has kidney failure, don’t try to self-diagnose and treat the condition at home.

After being diagnosed with kidney failure, it’s possible for pets to enjoy a good quality of life for years. Strictly follow the veterinarian's recommendations of any therapeutic diet or nutritional supplements to manage the condition.

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