Do you have a precious pooch who suffers from kidney disease? This can be a worrying diagnosis for a dog parent, no matter what the severity - and you may have a barrage of questions and concerns. You may wonder what signs to watch out for, what causes kidney disease, how to treat it effectively and whether you should change your dog’s food? With the right advice, food and veterinary treatment, you should be well equipped to give your dog with kidney disease a calm, happy and comfortable life with as little trouble from their symptoms as possible.
If you’re in the dark over what could indicate kidney disease in your dog, or how to care for them if they develop kidney issues, come along with us as we go through the common causes, symptoms and treatment…
Kidney disease can also be called renal disease, and it comes in two forms: chronic and acute. It’s relatively common, especially in older dogs - however there are lots of potential contributors to a dog’s kidney problems, so the cause isn’t always completely clear.
As all the major organs, kidneys are extremely important to a dog’s functioning - they filter toxins from the blood, regulate levels of potassium and sodium, conserve water and produce urine. Therefore, symptoms of kidney disease in dogs often show up as dehydration or urinary issues, or as general sickness.
Look out for the following signs of kidney disease:
If your dog is displaying one or more of these signs, book an appointment with the vet immediately so they can do a thorough check of your pooch.
Once you’ve taken your dog to the vet and explained their symptoms, it’s likely they will carry out blood and urine tests. Abnormalities can show up in urine that indicate kidney disease, whereas an elevated blood pressure is also a sign. In some cases, your dog might go for an ultrasound or x-ray to check the size and shape of the kidneys.
If, after testing, it’s confirmed that your pooch has kidney disease, the next step will be to assess what type, and how advanced the disease is.
There are two types of kidney disease in dogs - chronic and acute:
Chronic kidney disease is irreversible, and means the kidneys progressively degrade over time. It’s usually caused by a kidney malfunction rather than consumption of a toxic substance or an illness, and though it means progressive deterioration of the kidneys, symptoms can appear to come on suddenly.
Acute kidney disease is usually sudden onset, and can be caused by either cancer or another illness, an injury, or as a reaction to a toxic substance. Acute kidney disease may be fatal in some cases, or it may be cured completely by treatment. In other cases, it may cause permanent damage that eventually leads to chronic kidney disease.
To identify just how poorly your dog is, and make it easier to assess treatment, kidney disease is diagnosed in stages.
Stage 1 indicates the very start of the disease - usually identified by extra protein in the urine, or overly dilute urine. The first stage is hard to detect, as it often shows very few symptoms, if any at all. Dogs are born with so much kidney tissue, that it could be months of damage to that tissue before any symptoms start to show. At this stage, your dog shouldn’t be feeling any discomfort.
Stage 2 is a very mild stage of kidney disease, in which a dog may be showing slightly more obvious symptoms such as a decreased appetite or weight loss. This is when the kidneys are becoming more damaged than in Stage 1.
Stage 3 is a moderate stage of kidney damage progression. Your pooch will start to show more severe signs of illness - they might be sick and get diarrhoea, appear to be generally low, go off their food, and pee and drink a lot more than usual. The medications your vet prescribes and the specialist food your dog eats will be even more vital at this stage of the disease.
Stage 4 is the most serious diagnosis - it generally indicates late to end stage of kidney disease, also known as kidney failure. When given this diagnosis, there usually isn’t a lot of time left, and the treatment will revolve around keeping your lovely dog comfortable, well loved and fed as well as possible for the rest of their time with you.
If your dog is diagnosed with kidney disease, their treatment will depend on the type and stage of their condition. At first, it may be putting them on a renal diet, which will later increase to include treatment for their more severe symptoms.
Generally, treatment could be any or all of the following:
We’ve mentioned a renal diet a few times in this article, as it’s a vital treatment for a dog with kidney problems. A renal diet, or kidney-friendly diet, will alleviate symptoms of kidney disease, protect the kidneys from working overtime and encourage your pooch to eat more, as they’re likely to go off their food as the disease progresses. Alongside the right medicines and treatment, a specialist, vet-recommended renal food should significantly improve your pooch’s wellbeing and even extend their life expectancy.
It can be nerve-wracking to know exactly what kind of food a dog with kidney disease should eat, and which food groups and snacks to avoid - so read our fuss-free article on the best food for dogs with kidney disease to put your mind at ease.
By the way, we have our own specialist dog food range for dogs with kidney disease - Pooch & Mutt Veterinary Renal Food. It has been thoughtfully formulated in accordance to a renal diet; so contains gentle proteins like salmon, peas and eggs; chicken fat for a delicious taste to stoke their appetite; and salmon oil for those essential Omega 3 fatty acids. A lot of renal foods on the market contain grain, making life difficult for pooches with kidney disease and a grain intolerance - so we’ve made sure our renal food is also entirely grain-free.
Our dogs are so precious to us, and we know that having a kidney disease diagnosis is far from a desirable outcome. No matter what their condition, having access to the right food and treatment can take some of the mental load off, so that you can concentrate on loving and caring for your dog every day.
“Acute on chronic kidney disease in dogs: Etiology, clinical and clinicopathologic findings, prognostic markers, and survival”, 2020 - National Library of Medicine.
If you want to learn more about what to feed your dog if they have kidney problems, check out our blog here.
Never miss a treat!
Subscribe to our newsletter and get blog articles amongst other treats delivered to your inbox