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All About Canine Kidney Disease

kidney disease in dogs


The time to think about your dog’s health is long before they’re diagnosed with “renal insufficiency.” Typically, kidney health is a slow decline over the span of a lifetime. Once kidney function declines too much, they are unable to filter toxins from the blood effectively, and your pet’s health sharply declines.

Kidney disease is common in old dogs, but young dogs can ingest toxins that severely damage kidney function as well.

In this article, we will tell you a little more about kidney disease and what you can do about it.


What Are the Symptoms of Kidney Disease in Dogs?

The kidneys remove toxins from the blood. Typically when dogs get older, their kidneys are less effective at filtering out those toxins. So, the body works overtime to send more blood through the kidneys to remove the toxins.

At first, you’ll notice something is off about your pup. They might be acting strange. Drinking more water than usual, urinating more frequently, or walking like they’re drunk.

Some other symptoms of kidney failure include:

  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased water intake
  • Bad breath (worse than usual)
  • Blood in urine
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Pale gums
  • Frequent stumbling

If your dog is showing any of these symptoms, go to the veterinarian immediately.


What Can Be Done for a Dog with Kidney Failure?

Once your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with kidney failure, there are two phases of treatment. First, the vet will try to ‘restart’ the kidneys. They do this by flushing the system with fluids to stimulate normal kidney function. If there are enough functioning kidney cells, this might be enough to meet the body’s needs for waste removal.

Phase two of treating kidney failure depends on the results from step one. If flushing the system was enough to restart the kidneys, your dog may not need ongoing medication. But, the damage will not heal, and they will require regular vet visits to make sure blood levels are healthy, and the kidneys are continuing to filter toxins from the body.

If the kidneys fail to meet the body’s requirements after flushing, your vet will recommend one or more treatment options:

  • A low-protein diet to decrease the kidney’s workload.
  • A potassium supplement to offset the potassium lost with increased urination.
  • A phosphate binder that stops excessive absorption in the stomach.
  • Regular fluid flushes to help the kidney filter toxins.
  • Medication to help increase appetite.
  • Medication to increase calcium absorption and keep bones strong.
  • Medication to normalize red blood cell counts.
  • Medication to keep blood pressure in a healthy range.

Unfortunately, severe cases of kidney disease can diminish your dog’s quality of life drastically.  Once kidney failure has started, your dog is going to need medical supervision for the rest of their life.

However, with the right medication and lifestyle adjustments, you can expect your pup to be around for a few more years.


How Much Does It Cost to Treat Kidney Disease?

Kidney failure is one of the most expensive medical issues for dogs. If you decide to pursue ongoing treatment, the out-of-pocket expense will quickly get into the thousands of dollars.

If your pet needs dialysis and continuous renal replacement therapies, the average price for the first three treatments is $4,500 each. And follow-up treatments are around $700 per month.

Thankfully, if you’re covered by pet insurance before signs of kidney failure, nearly all of the medical bills will be covered by your insurer.


What Are My Options?


Specific Kidney Conditions in Dogs

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 and is often caused by underlying illness and congenital and hereditary conditions.

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