chronic kidney disease in Dogs

What is Chronic Kidney Disease in Dogs?

What is it?

Chronic kidney disease in dogs is a condition characterized by the gradual loss of kidney function over time. This can lead to a buildup of waste products and electrolyte imbalances in the body, which can cause a range of symptoms and complications. Chronic kidney disease can be caused by a variety of factors, including age, genetics, infections, and underlying health conditions.

How is it Treated?

The treatment of chronic kidney disease in dogs aims to manage the underlying cause of the condition and slow the progression of kidney damage. This may involve a combination of dietary changes, medication, and supportive care such as fluid therapy and monitoring of electrolyte levels. In advanced cases, dialysis or kidney transplant may be considered as a treatment option.

Breed Predispositions

Bull Terriers Doberman Pinschers German Shepherds Golden Retrievers Labrador Retrievers Boxers Cocker Spaniels Rottweilers Shar Peis Bernese Mountain Dogs


Over the past few weeks, Helen had become increasingly concerned about her beloved senior Labrador Retriever, Daisy, who seemed to be losing her appetite and becoming increasingly lethargic. Daisy was also drinking water excessively and urinating more frequently than usual. Worried about her furry companion’s health, Helen scheduled an appointment with their trusted veterinarian. After a comprehensive examination and several diagnostic tests, the vet revealed that Daisy was suffering from chronic kidney disease, a condition that Helen had never encountered before.

Chronic kidney disease in dogs (CKD) is when the kidneys fail over time due to damage or scarring. The most common cause of CKD is diabetes, but many other reasons include hypertension, glomerulonephritis, amyloidosis, polycystic kidney disease, and others.

There are two types of CKD: acute and chronic kidney failure. Acute kidney failure occurs when the kidneys suddenly stop working correctly. This usually happens after surgery or trauma. Patients who suffer from this type of kidney failure may need dialysis or a transplant.

Chronic kidney failure is not life-threatening, but it does require ongoing treatment. Kidney disease stages: Stages 1, 2, and 3. Each step requires different treatments.

  • Stage 1: Mildly decreased kidney function. This stage occurs when the dog begins losing weight. This is called prerenal azotemia. Treatment includes diet modifications, blood pressure control, and medications.
  • Stage 2: Moderately decreased kidney function. This involves a rise in creatinine levels. This is called renal azotemia. This stage often goes unnoticed until patients develop symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Treatment includes dietary adjustments, medication, and dialysis. Dialysis is a process of filtering waste materials out of the bloodstream through a machine called a hemodialyzer.
  • Stage 3: Severely decreased kidney function. Nitrogen levels in urea rise; this is called hyperazotemia. This stage is characterized by severe fluid retention and swelling. Patients must be treated with dialysis and possibly a transplant.

Dog’s Kidney – What Do They Do?

Dog’s kidneys are organs located at the bottom of the abdomen. They filter blood and remove waste products. The kidney comprises two main parts: the cortex (the outer part) and the medulla (the inner part). The cortex contains many tiny tubes called nephrons. Each nephron filters out waste products such as urea and creatinine. These wastes then pass into the tubules, carrying them away through urine.

In dogs, the kidneys produce approximately 1 liter of urine per day. This amount varies depending on the size of the animal. Smaller breeds may only produce 0.5 liters of urine daily, while larger species may produce 2 liters.

Dog Kidney What do they do

Causes of Renal Failure in Dogs

There are several different types of canine chronic kidney disease. Some dogs develop CKD after being diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, obesity, genetic disorders, or other conditions.

Other dogs develop CKD without having any of those conditions. Some dogs never show signs of CKD until they die.

Regardless of the type of CKD, the leading cause is a chronic inflammation of your dog’s kidneys, known as glomerulonephritis. This happens when your dog’s immune system attacks his own body. Other causes include congenital disabilities, metabolic disorders, bacterial infections, toxins, immune system diseases, and cancer.

This attack damages the tiny filters inside your dog’s kidneys. These filters remove waste products from your dog’s bloodstream. They also regulate the water and minerals he gets from food and drinks.

When the filters stop working correctly, waste builds up in your dog’s bloodstream. The waste eventually goes through the rest of your dog’s body. Your dog’s kidneys try eliminating the trash but can’t handle the extra load. Finally, they become damaged and stop functioning.

Some dogs develop CKD slowly over the years. Others experience rapid deterioration. Regardless of the speed, once your dog develops CKD, it’s almost impossible to reverse. For older animal populations at veterinary care facilities, CKD affects up to 10% of dogs and 35% of cats, but that number is lower for the general population.

Symptoms of Chronic Renal Failure in Dogs

When dogs develop chronic kidney disease, they often experience clinical signs, including weight loss, less water consumption, diarrhea, lethargy, poor appetite, and depression. These symptoms can occur gradually or suddenly.

As long as your dog has access to water, he shouldn’t lose too much weight, so always have extra water. However, if his appetite decreases, he may eat less. This can lead to dehydration.

Diarrhea is another symptom of chronic kidney disease. Dogs suffering from this problem may have loose stool or bloody stools. They may also vomit frequently. As a result, your dog may experience lethargy, lying down more often, sleeping, and exercising longer.

Decreased appetite is another symptom to look out for. Sometimes, owners report that their dogs refuse food altogether. Some dogs also become withdrawn and depressed. Others become aggressive and destructive. Other clinical signs of chronic kidney disease include vomiting, increased thirst, and urination.

Diagnosis of Chronic Kidney Disease in Dogs

Clinical diagnosis is based on physical examination, laboratory tests, urinalysis, radiographs, and ultrasound imaging. However, there are some things that doctors look for when diagnosing CKD. These include blood pressure readings, proteinuria, decreased urine output, elevated creatinine levels, abnormal liver function tests, swelling of legs or ankles, fatigue, weight loss, and bone pain.

Diagnosis of chronic kidney disease in dogs
  • Physical exams check for abnormalities in the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin, gums, teeth, abdomen, genitals, and rectum. In addition, the vet checks for swelling in the legs or feet, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, weight loss, coughing, sneezing, breathing difficulties, and other clinical signs.
  • Laboratory tests measure the amount of protein in the blood, blood flow, cholesterol levels, electrolytes, glucose, calcium, phosphorus, albumin, globulin, bilirubin, urea nitrogen, creatinine, urine protein, alkaline phosphatase, alanine aminotransferase, and aspartate aminotransferases.
  • Urinalyses are used to analyze the color, consistency, odor, presence of crystals, sedimentation rate, pH level, specific gravity, bacteria count, and red blood cell production.
  • Radiographs are taken to examine the kidney’s size, shape, density, and structure.
  • Ultrasounds view internal structures such as the heart, lungs, spleen, pancreas, gallbladder, liver, kidneys, bladder, uterus, ovaries, testicles, lymph nodes, and thyroid gland.

Once the vet determines that the dog has kidney disease, they may recommend treatment options such as medication, surgery, dialysis, or transplantation.

Treatment for Canine Kidney Failure

Treatment options for CKD depend upon the underlying cause. For example, if the primary problem is diabetes mellitus, then dietary management may be sufficient. However, additional treatment may be required if there is evidence of contemporary issues such as proteinuria, azotemia, or hypertension.

  • Dietary management includes reducing the intake of carbohydrates and increasing the consumption of lean meat, fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy products. In addition, low-phosphorus, low-sodium, and low-protein prescription diets for dogs with kidney disease have improved their health and extended their lives.

Additional treatments include insulin therapy, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, potassium-sparing diuretics, and antihypertensive medications.

There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis (HD) and peritoneal dialysis (PD). HD uses a particular kind of blood vessel called a fistula to connect the vein and artery of the arm. PD uses a catheter inserted into the abdomen. Both methods remove excess water and toxins from the body.

After dialysis, patients return home with instructions on monitoring their health and adjusting medications.

  • Transplantation is often used for dogs who have mild to moderate CKD. Transplants are performed after the patient has been treated with immunosuppressive drugs for several months. These medications help prevent the rejection of the transplanted organ.

Prevention of Chronic Kidney Disease in Dogs

So, what can you do to prevent your dog from developing CKD?

  1. Watch your dog closely for symptoms of CKD. Your vet may recommend blood tests to check your dog’s levels of creatinine and urea nitrogen (also called BUN). These tests measure the level of waste in your dog’s blood. If your dog’s levels are high, then he likely has CKD.
  2. Make sure your dog eats a healthy diet. Food rich in protein and phosphorus is linked to higher levels of waste in your dog. So, avoid foods such as red meat, poultry, dairy, fish, eggs, and shellfish. In addition, limit your dog’s intake of table salt. Table salt contains sodium chloride, which increases your dog’s urine output.
  3. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercises. Exercise boosts your dog’s metabolism, which burns calories. Burning calories reduces your dog’s chances of getting overweight.
  4. Make sure your dog receives regular veterinary care. Regular visits to your veterinarian can detect early kidney issues. Early detection means better treatment options.
  5. Consider adding supplements to your dog’s diet. Supplements can help improve your dog’s overall health. For example, omega-3 fatty acids in salmon oil can boost your dog’s immunity.
  6. Take steps to reduce stress in your life. Pressure can increase your dog’s risk of developing CKD. So, spend less time worrying and more time enjoying life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Dogs with kidney disease have a shorter life expectancy compared to healthy dogs. In addition, they suffer from complications such as vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, and even death.

A study at the University of Pennsylvania found that dogs with kidney disease had a median survival time of 2.5 years. Another study showed that dogs with chronic kidney disease lived an average of 4.3 years.

In addition, another study by the American Society for Veterinary Clinical Pathology (ASVCP) showed that dogs with kidney disease survived an average of 5.6 years.

It is important to note that these studies were based on data collected from veterinary practice in hospitals and clinics. Unfortunately, no official statistics regarding how long dogs live with kidney disease are available.

The following table shows what blood levels indicate your dog may have kidney disease.

  • 5 – 10 mg/dL | Mildly elevated
  • 10 – 20 mg/dL | Moderate elevation
  • 20 – 30 mg/dL | Severe elevation
  • 30 – 40 mg/dL | Extreme elevation
  • 40 + mg/dL | Very severe elevation

Kidney failure progresses quickly in dogs. The disease usually begins when the dog has been exposed to toxins or drugs. However, it may also occur if there has been kidney damage due to injury or illness. Kidneys remove waste products from the bloodstream and produce urine. If they do not work correctly, wastes build up in the body, causing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, and depression.

Exercise is essential for dogs with kidney disease because it helps them maintain muscle mass, reduces stress levels, improves cardiovascular health, and promotes overall well-being. It also helps keep your dog’s joints flexible and strong.

Exercise has many benefits for dogs with kidney disease, including improving heart function, reducing blood pressure, increasing bone density, and helping prevent joint pain.

You should take your dog out for at least 30 minutes every day. This could include walking, jogging, swimming, playing fetch, or any activity that gets your dog moving. If your dog does not like water, try taking them to the park or local lake where they can play in the sand.

A healthy diet is essential for dogs with kidney problems. The best way to maintain your pet’s health is to provide a balanced diet rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In addition, it is important to avoid feeding your dog too much sugar, salt, fat, caffeine, alcohol, and preservatives.

If your dog has a Urinary tract infection, he needs extra calcium and phosphorus in his diet. Calcium helps build strong bones, while phosphorus promotes the growth and repair of tissues. Your vet may recommend adding supplements to your dog’s diet if he doesn’t get enough of either nutrient.

The first treatment phase involves removing the affected tissue (kidney) and replacing it with healthy tissue. This may include removing or only part of the entire diseased portion of the kidney. If the whole kidney needs to be removed, the surgeon must remove enough healthy tissue around the kidney to ensure there is no scarring.

If only part of the kidney must be removed because it has been damaged but still functions well, then the surgeon removes only the damaged area. After surgery, the dog usually recovers quickly. However, the dog may have problems urinating after surgery if the damage is severe.

Sometimes, the surgeon might also try to save the remaining healthy kidney. The doctor may perform another nephrectomy operation if the kidney fails after surgery. Nephrectomy means “removal of the kidney.” It is done when the kidneys do not function well after surgery.

Yes! Several breeds are known to live longer than humans due to their ability to adapt to different conditions. For example, Greyhounds are famous for their longevity and endurance. In addition, some breeds, like Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds, are known for their resistance to kidney disease. However, other species like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Chihuahuas, and Shih Tzus are prone to developing certain types of kidney disease.

Dogs can survive kidney disease if they get proper treatment. Treatment includes:

  • Monitoring the patient’s condition
  • Treating infections
  • Replacing fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhea
  • Administering medications
  • Giving nutritional support
  • Preventing complications

When treating your dog for kidney disease, you’ll want to start by having him tested. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you what type of tests you need to run and how long it takes before you see results. Once you find out what your dog has, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about treatment options. Several medications can be used to treat kidney disease, including antibiotics, antihistamines, pain relievers, and diuretics.

You can also help your dog stay healthy by making sure that he gets regular exercise. This includes playing fetch with him, walking together, and even swimming. You must keep up with these activities because they’ll help prevent your dog from getting sick in the first place.

A wide variety of conditions can cause sudden death in dogs, but kidney failure is one of the most common. If your dog has chronic kidney disease, its kidneys may not be able to keep up with the demands of its body. As a result, it could experience sudden death from several causes, including blood clots, heart attack, or arrhythmia.

The best way to know when to put your dog down with kidney failure is by watching its health decline over time. If you can’t see any improvement in their health, it may be time to consider putting them down.

The prognosis for dogs with chronic kidney disease can vary depending on the severity of the condition and whether or not treatment is begun. In general, however, most dogs who receive appropriate treatment will live relatively long lives with minimal complications.

The severity of kidney failure can vary greatly depending on a dog’s age, health history, and underlying condition. In general, dogs with advanced kidney failure may experience decreased mobility and muscle weakness; Rapid heart rate; Vomiting; Diarrhea; Uncontrolled bleeding from the mouth or nose; Seizures (mainly if associated with brain damage); and Death.

There is no known genetic predisposition to chronic kidney disease in dogs. However, diet and environmental factors may play a role in developing this condition.

While any dog can develop CKD, there does appear to be a link between diet and the development of this disease in dogs. Studies have shown that diets high in protein or phosphorus are associated with an increased risk of developing CKD, while diets low in both nutrients are protective against the disease.

Therefore, your dog’s diet must include enough nutrients to support good kidney function. In addition, regularly monitoring your pup’s blood pressure and performing regular urinalysis can help monitor their health and identify early signs of CKD if they develop it.

Stage 4 chronic kidney disease in dogs is characterized by end-stage renal failure, in which the dog cannot adequately filter blood or cope with the high levels of waste products produced due to their damaged kidneys. Without treatment, this condition leads to death within weeks or months.

A healthy dog typically lives with kidney failure for several weeks before succumbing. However, dogs with advanced renal failure or other health problems may not survive even a few days without treatment.

Your veterinarian will use several methods to determine your dog’s degree of kidney failure. These methods include blood tests, urinalysis, and imaging scans.

No, progressive chronic kidney disease is not a slow acute kidney injury. Instead, advanced chronic kidney disease is an umbrella term that can refer to many types of renal damage, including early-stage CKD and late-stage CKD.

If your pet shows symptoms of chronic kidney disease, you should take them to the vet for a check-up. The vet may need to give your pet medication or perform other tests to determine the severity of their condition and how best to treat it.

The most common time kidney disease occurs in dogs is between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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