Why Are Kidneys Important? Just like human kidneys, your dog’s kidneys balance certain substances in the blood and filter out the body's wastes as urine. They maintain normal concentrations of salt and water in the body. Kidneys also help control blood pressure, aid in calcium metabolism and sustain phosphorous levels. Additionally, they manufacture a hormone that encourages red-blood cell production. When kidneys don't function properly, toxins build up in the blood and a dog will become ill.
What Causes Kidney Problems in Dogs?
Acute kidney failure is an abrupt decline in function that occurs over a period of days. Dogs can develop acute kidney problems as a result of ingesting toxins, including antifreeze, certain medications, tainted foods, etc. Other reasons for this type of kidney failure include decreased blood flow or oxygen delivery to the kidneys, infections and urinary obstruction.
While some kidney problems have an immediate cause that can be treated, chronic kidney disease shows up over a period of time and its causes are harder to determine. This condition develops slowly and affects mostly older dogs. It is often caused by underlying illness and congenital and hereditary conditions. But surprisingly, a main cause of chronic kidney failure in dogs is dental disease. Bacteria associated with advanced dental disease enter the blood stream and invades multiple organs, causing irreversible damage to the heart, liver and kidneys.
What Are Some Signs of Kidney Problems in Dogs?
- Change in water consumption
- Change in volume of urine produced
- Depression and listlessness
- Loss or decreased appetite
- Chemical odor of breath
- Weight loss
- Blood in urine
- Mouth ulcers
- Pale gums
- Stumbling, acting drunk
If your dog shows any of the above symptoms, please take her to see your veterinarian immediately.
How Can Kidney Problems Be Prevented?
To prevent kidney problems due to poisoning, make sure your dog does not have access to potentially dangerous substances and that she is supervised at all times when outside. Do not give your dog any over-the-counter medications without instruction by your veterinarian, and make sure that your dog has access to fresh water at all times. Proper oral hygiene helps to maintain good overall health.
How Are Kidney Problems Treated?
It is important to kidney failure be identified and treatment begun it its earliest stage. Your veterinarian can determine if kidney disease is present and start appropriate treatment. Depending on whether the problem is acute or chronic, treatment may include the following:
- Drugs that encourage urine production
- Fluid therapy
- Management of blood electrolyte abnormalities
- Monitoring of urinary output
- Control of vomiting
- Medication for gastrointestinal problems
- Dietary management
- Correction of anemia
- Management of high blood pressure
- Therapy for any specific underlying causes identified (example: antifreeze toxicity, infection)
What Happens if Kidney Problems Go Untreated?
Kidney problems often lead to life-threatening conditions that require immediate hospitalization and treatment. If left untreated, end-stage kidney failure will occur, leading to a fatal outcome.