Can a dog recover from kidney failure?

Kidney failure (renal failure) in dogs can be caused by underlying health conditions which impact the kidneys and related organs. Here, our Sharpsburg emergency vets share some common signs and symptoms of this potentially life threatening condition.

Kidney (Renal) Failure

Renal failure (also known as kidney failure) is caused by a variety of conditions that affect the kidneys and other organs. The kidneys of a healthy dog work to eliminate toxins, regulate hydration, maintain a normal electrolyte balance, and release hormones that help the body produce red blood cells. The kidneys in dogs suffering from kidney failure are no longer performing their function as effectively as they should.

Types of Kidney Failure in Dogs

There are two broad categories of kidney failure seen in dogs, chronic and acute. 

  • Chronic Renal Failure - Chronic kidney failure is defined by the gradual loss of kidney function over a period of weeks, months, or years. Chronic kidney failure in dogs is usually caused by kidney degeneration associated with aging. Although most dogs do not recover completely 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 characterized by a suddenly decrease in kidney function over a period of hours or days. This form of kidney failure is typically caused by exposure to toxins or an infection. If diagnosed and treated early, acute kidney failure can often be cured.

Causes of Kidney Failure in Dogs

Any condition that affects the kidneys can lead to renal failure including:

  • Congenital disease - Underlying illnesses and hereditary conditions such as being born without one or both kidneys, and cysts.
  • Bacterial infections - Bacterial infections such as leptospirosis can attack your dog's system, causing the kidneys to become inflamed and renal cells to die off.
  • Toxicosis - Damage to your dog's kidneys can be caused by the accidental ingestion of poisons or toxins.
  • Dental disease - Bacteria on your dog's teeth and gums can cause advanced dental disease. This bacteria could then enter your pet's bloodstream and organs, potentially causing kidney, heart, and liver damage.
  • Geriatric degeneration - As your dog ages, cells break down and die. This happens all over the body, including the kidneys where it can lead to kidney disease and renal failure.

Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Dogs

If your dog is suffering from kidney failure you may notice one or more of the following signs:
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pale gums
  • Loss of balance, or stumbling
  • Chemical smell to breath
  • Significant loss of appetite
  • Notable increase or decrease in water consumption
  • Increase or decrease in volume of urine
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Blood in urine
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures

Get your dog to the vet as soon as possible if he is exhibiting symptoms of kidney failure. It is crucial to receive an accurate diagnosis and start treatment as soon as possible in order to produce positive treatment outcomes.

Treatment for Kidney Failure in Dogs

As with many other conditions, treatment will be determined by your dog’s overall health and the underlying cause of their kidney problems.

If your pet is suffering from acute kidney failure, urgent and intensive treatment will be required, often in intensive care at your animal hospital. That said, if spotted early, milder cases of acute kidney failure may be treated with fluids, antibiotics and medications without the need for hospitalization. In some cases dialysis may be recommended to treat acute renal failure in dogs.

The main goals of treating chronic kidney failure in dogs are to slow the disease's progression and increase their quality of life. Chronic kidney disease symptoms like nausea, fluid imbalances, and changes in blood pressure can be managed with medication and/or dietary changes for your dog.

Many dogs being treated for chronic kidney failure go on to enjoy a good quality of life for a number of years. In order to help manage your dog's condition, and improve your dog's quality of life, specific nutrients, nutritional supplements or a therapeutic diet may be recommended.

Preventing Kidney Failure in Dogs

Dogs frequently suffer from acute kidney failure after consuming toxins, tainted foods, or foods they shouldn't eat, like grapes or chocolate. Pay close attention to the items in your home that could potentially be poisonous to your dog in order to aid in preventing the development of acute kidney failure. Away from your dog's reach, keep poisonous items like antifreeze, prescription drugs, and potentially harmful foods.

Chronic kidney failure is generally age-related and predetermined by genetics, making it much more difficult to prevent. That said, regular wellness exams twice yearly at your primary care veterinarian's office will help to increase the chances detecting symptoms early so that treatment can begin before the condition becomes more severe.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is showing signs of kidney failure, contact your vet immediately. If your vet is unavailable contact East Coweta Veterinary Hospital in Sharpsburg.