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Can Dogs Get Kidney Disease?

Despite being a different species, dogs’ bodies function similarly to humans. Dogs have kidneys to help balance their bodies’ nutrients and filter out waste. Kidneys also aid blood pressure control, red blood cell production, and calcium metabolization. But did you know that dogs can also acquire kidney disease?

Canine kidney disease can be classified as acute or chronic. Acute kidney failure occurs quickly over several days, whereas chronic kidney failure occurs gradually. Dogs also have different types of kidney diseases: chronic renal failure and acute renal failure.

Kidney Disease in Dogs

When the kidneys are working correctly, they perform various important functions. They remove toxins from the blood and excrete them through the urine, regulate blood pressure and acidity levels, prevent water loss, and maintain a healthy metabolic balance. Kidney or renal disease is any condition that causes the kidneys to stop working properly and can range in severity. It indicates that damage is occurring but that functional tissue remains. Renal failure is far more severe because the kidneys have stopped working entirely.

What are the Different Types of Kidney Disease in Dogs?

Kidney disease, also known as renal disease, is a common condition in dogs that affects the proper functioning of the kidneys. The kidneys are vital organs that filter waste products from the blood, regulate electrolyte levels, and produce hormones that control blood pressure and red blood cell production. When the kidneys are damaged or fail to function correctly, waste products and fluids can accumulate in the body, leading to various health issues. Kidney disease can affect dogs of any age, breed, or gender, and early detection and treatment are crucial for managing the condition and preserving the dog’s quality of life.

Chronic Renal Failure

Chronic kidney failure is defined by the progressive loss of kidney function over weeks, months, or years. Chronic kidney failure in dogs is typically caused by kidney degeneration associated with aging. Although most dogs do not fully recover from chronic kidney failure, the condition can often be successfully managed, allowing pets to live a normal life for months or years.

Acute Renal Failure

Acute kidney failure is a sudden decrease in kidney function over hours or days. Toxin exposure or infection are the most common causes of this type of kidney failure. Acute kidney failure is often curable if diagnosed and treated early.

What Causes Kidney Failures in Dogs?

Canine kidney disease can be acute or chronic. Acute kidney failure occurs quickly over several days, whereas chronic kidney failure occurs gradually.

Acute Kidney Failure Causes

Toxin ingestion is the most common cause of acute kidney problems in dogs. It could be a chemical, such as antifreeze, or bad food.

Urinary obstruction in your pet’s body can also cause problems. When blood flow decreases, your dog’s kidneys become less oxygenated and more susceptible to infection.

Kidney problems can also be caused by the following:

  • Severe Dehydration
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Snake Bites
  • Leptospirosis 

Causes of Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease is most common in older dogs, and the exact cause is frequently challenging to determine due to its gradual onset. Because early symptoms of chronic kidney disease are mild, they are easily overlooked or dismissed.

Dental disease is a leading cause of chronic kidney failure in older dogs. Bacteria accumulate on your dog’s teeth and enter the digestive system when he eats or drinks. While your dog’s kidneys are designed to filter waste, bacteria can gradually reduce kidney function.

Other Causes of Kidney Disease

Renal failure can result from any condition that affects the kidneys, including:

Congenital Disease

Refers to underlying illnesses and hereditary conditions, such as being born with missing one or both kidneys and cysts.

Bacterial Infections

Such as leptospirosis, can attack your dog’s system, inflaming the kidneys and causing renal cells to die.


Accidentally ingesting poisons or toxins can cause kidney damage in your dog.

Dental Disease

If bacteria accumulate on your dog’s teeth and gums, it can progress to advanced dental disease. That bacteria could then enter your pet’s bloodstream and organs, potentially causing kidney, heart, and liver damage.

Geriatric Degeneration

Occurs when cells break down and die as your dog ages. This happens throughout the body, including the kidneys, resulting in kidney disease and renal failure.

How Are Kidney Problems Diagnosed?

Blood and urine samples are typically used to diagnose renal failure in dogs because both can reveal abnormalities associated with the condition. It can often take a significant amount of kidney damage before routine tests show traces of the disease, but newer tests are now available that allow for earlier detection. Elevated blood pressure is frequently found in dogs with chronic kidney disease and can be used as an indicator, though various other factors can cause it. Your veterinarian may use ultrasound or X-rays to examine your dog’s kidneys, which can change in size and appearance when a pet suffers from renal failure.

When a dog is diagnosed with kidney disease, veterinarians may analyze their blood to help determine treatment. It progresses from stage I when pets show signs of disease but no change in kidney function, to stage IV, when the condition causes the dog to become ill.

What are the Signs of Kidney Diseases in Dogs?

Among the warning signs to look for are the following:

  • Increasing or decreasing the amount of water consumed
  • Changes in urination volume and frequency
  • Loss of enthusiasm for playing or interacting
  • Appetite suppression
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Unknown cause of weight loss
  • Urine with blood
  • Dental disease symptoms include pale gums, bad breath, and mouth ulcers.

Can Kidney Disease Be Prevented? 

Because kidney disease is inherited, responsible breeding can help prevent the chronic form of the disease. Many acute cases can also be avoided by keeping pets away from toxic substances such as antifreeze, rat poisons, and certain foods such as raisins, grapes, and plants. Leptospirosis, an infectious disease, can cause kidney disease, so it’s critical to stay current on vaccinations.

A balanced, species-appropriate diet will also give your pet the essential nutrients its body requires, giving your dog the best chance of staying healthy. Perform regular health checks on your dog at home and notify your veterinarian immediately if your pet appears ill, is drinking more, or is losing weight. Take them to your veterinarian for an annual health check to ensure that any signs of disease are detected as soon as possible.

How Can Kidney Disease Be Managed?

Treatment will vary depending on the severity of your dog’s kidney disease but may include the following:


Diet is essential in the treatment of kidney disease. A specially designed diet for patients and individually tailored diets low in protein, phosphorus, calcium, and sodium but high in omega-3 fatty acids can help. However, recommended dietary changes will vary depending on your dog’s stage of renal disease, so consult your veterinarian before making any changes. 

Unfortunately, a lack of protein in diets for kidney disease in dogs can often make food unappealing to them, so it’s critical to keep your pet eating. Keeping your dog hydrated is also essential, so always have a clean water supply. It is best to have a variety of water bowls in various locations.


Because renal disease can affect many bodily functions, a wide range of medications are available to treat each dog’s symptoms, whether primary or secondary, from eye problems to sickness. 

Supplements can also replace vital vitamins lost in patients with kidney disease. 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 differ depending on the stage of the condition and the symptoms displayed by your dog. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian because the wrong supplement can be harmful.

Fluid Replacement Therapy

Fluid therapy can replace depleted body fluid levels and help the kidneys flush out toxins to help reduce dehydration caused by renal disease and kidney failure. This can be administered intravenously or subcutaneously.

Kidney Dialysis

When all other treatment options are exhausted, your veterinarian may recommend kidney dialysis to prolong or improve your dog’s life. It involves a machine that, like humans, takes in the dog’s blood and cleanses it before pumping it back into the body.

However, this is not common practice because it is only available at a few specialist centers and can be very expensive – especially since three sessions per week are required, and it will never cure the condition. Furthermore, it has risks, and not all patients respond to the treatment.

Protein Therapy

Protein in the urine increases the risk of CKD progression in dogs. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or blood pressure medications will help to lower kidney pressure, reducing the severity of proteinuria. Benazepril and enalapril are two commonly used medications.

What Food is Good for Dogs with Kidney Disease?

While you may be tempted to make your home-cooked diet for your dog, there may be better options than this. Dog food contains the proper balance of nutrients your dog requires to stay healthy.

Your veterinarian may recommend a specific dog food that contains additional nutrients your dog requires for his condition.

You may be tempted to feed your dog from your plate, but certain food that can harm your dog and contribute to kidney problems.

  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate, coffee, and caffeine
  • Coconut
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Macadamia and other nuts
  • Milk and dairy
  • Onions, garlic, chives
  • Raw or undercooked meat and eggs
  • Salty Food
  • Xylitol
  • Yeast dough

What Happens if You Don’t Address the Issue?

If left untreated, kidney problems in dogs can be fatal. If you suspect your dog is suffering from kidney failure, do not attempt to self-diagnose or treat the condition at home.

Kidney problems frequently result in life-threatening situations that necessitate immediate hospitalization and treatment. If left untreated, end-stage kidney failure can occur, resulting in death.

Consult your veterinarian or take your dog to an after-hours emergency clinic for an evaluation and treatment.

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