Just like humans, dogs can also develop kidney disease. When the kidneys fail to function, the animal will slowly start to accumulate waste products in the bloodstream and develop symptoms.
Fortunately, the kidneys have a lot of reserves. It is estimated that at least 70% of the kidneys have to be damaged before the animal will show signs of kidney disease. The amount of time it takes to damage two-thirds of the kidney depends on the cause but most often it can be months or even years before one starts to see obvious signs of failure.
What causes kidney failure in dogs?
In general, the most common cause of kidney malfunctioning in dogs is advancing age. The wear and tear associated with aging happens in most dogs. The age at which the kidney starts to deteriorate in dogs is highly dependent on the size of the animal. With small dogs, kidney disease starts to occur between ages 8-10 and the signs may appear between ages 10-14. Larger dogs tend to have a shorter lifespan and may show signs of kidney failure as early as age 5-7.
Progression of chronic kidney disease?
As the kidneys start to worsen in function with age, the kidney’s filtration process becomes inefficient, and over time this leads to the accumulation of toxins in the blood. Initially, the kidneys will start to compensate by working harder and increasing the filtration rate, leading to increased urine production. The dog will then appear to be dehydrated and will start to drink water continuously to compensate for the thirst. Eventually, the kidneys can no longer continue to work at this rapid rate, and the filtration process will decline, leading to decreased production of urine.
What are the signs of kidney disease in dogs?
Signs and symptoms of kidney disease in dogs include the following:
- Increased water consumption
- Frequent urination
- Loss of appetite
- Sleepy and fatigued
- Lack of energy
- Foul breath
- Ulcers around the lips and mouth
When chronic kidney disease is established in dogs, the signs of lethargy will be obvious. The dog will appear tired and may refuse to eat. In many cases, when the kidneys stop making urine, the dog will put on weight as the water is no longer excreted.
How is chronic kidney failure diagnosed in dogs?
Just like humans, the diagnosis of kidney malfunction in dogs is done by looking at the urine and performing blood tests. With kidney malfunction, there will be an increase in blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels. The urine may show evidence of protein leakage.
How is kidney disease treated in dogs?
Once the diagnosis of kidney disease is made in dogs, the treatment depends on the severity of the disorder. If there is a specific cause, then the treatment is geared towards treating the cause first. For example, if the cause is an infection, then the treatment is the administration of an antibiotic. In some cases, the kidney damage may be beyond repair and thus only supportive treatment is possible. In many cases, with aggressive support and proper diet, many dogs may live a comfortable life for many months or in some cases years.
Stages of Treatment
The treatment of kidney malfunction dogs is usually done in two stages. The first stage includes flushing out any toxins or poisons and the second stage is a change in diet. Dialysis, like in humans, is not commonly done in dogs because of the exorbitant costs and lack of facilities.
In the first phase, the dog is administered fluids to help flush out any toxins from the blood and kidneys. This process known as diuresis only works if the dog is still making urine. If the dog is not making urine, then fluid should not be administered as it will accumulate in the body and exacerbate the symptoms.
If after flushing the kidney still has viable cells and is functional, then the dog will gradually start to feel better.
To recover after the first phase treatment may take several days or weeks. If the kidney damage was moderate to severe then the recovery may take months or even years. In some cases, the kidneys may start to function normally for a few days or weeks and then stop working again.
At the moment there is no good method of predicting which dog will have a good or poor outcome with diuresis. At all times, the animal should be closely monitored by following the blood tests, body weight, and presence or absence of symptoms.
The second phase of treatment
The key goal of the second phase treatment is to help keep the kidneys functioning as long as possible. This entails a comprehensive change in the diet. This is usually accomplished by doing the following:
Low protein diet
Nutrition is one of the most important treatments for dogs with kidney disease. There is ample evidence today showing that a diet low in protein and phosphorus can prevent worsening of kidney damage. The low protein diet helps lower the amount of toxins and protein waste the body produces. This diet will also reduce the workload on the kidneys. The low protein diet must be continued for life or until there is complete recovery of kidney function. Because protein is required for normal body growth, it is vital to ensure that the dog eats highly nutritious foods at the same time. Further, choose dog treats that are low in protein.
When the kidneys start to fail, the phosphorus formed in the body cannot be excreted. High levels of phosphorus can cause a decrease in appetite, lethargy, and sleepiness. Thus it is important to read labels when buying food for dogs. A low phosphorus diet is recommended in most cases. Also, the doctor may prescribe drugs that will bind the phosphorus in the intestinal tract and prevent its absorption.
Finally, when the dog has developed kidney failure it is important to weigh the dog regularly to ensure that fluid is not being retained. The amount of fluid should be restricted. To prevent dehydration, your doctor will teach you how to administer fluids by injection under the skin. The fluid injection is usually done twice a week and helps promote the excretion of toxins and prevents dehydration.
There are many commercial low protein diets on the market but they can be expensive. Some of them include:
- Hill Science diet
- Holistic diet
- Matties’ Kidney diet for dogs
- Pro Plan Veterinary diet
- Royal Canin
You can make dog food at home from scratch but need to ensure that it contains low protein, minimal salt, and low potassium.
There is agreement that feeding dogs with kidney disease a low protein diet can improve their quality of life and prevent the progression of kidney disease. However, the dog should be followed by a veterinarian to ensure that the blood work remains stable.
Treat options for dogs with kidney disease
Many of the aforementioned companies not only manufacture therapeutic diet foods, but also treats for dogs with ingredients that are beneficial to the kidneys. One amazing treat is available from our very own company, Healthy Kidney Inc. Kidney Restore Dog Treats can be purchased via Amazon and are packed with ingredients which have been scientifically proven to help benefit the kidneys.
An alternative to specialty treats is simply, feeding small bits of people food as an occasional treat, provided these foods are low in protein and contain less than 110 mg of sodium and less than 150 mg of phosphorus per every 100 calories. The USDA Food Composition Database contains information on these categories and which foods contain how much of them. Keep in mind the treats you feed, regardless of your dog’s kidney health, should ideally only make up about 10% or less of a dog’s daily calorie consumption.
Here are some of the more preferable snacks you can feed your canine companion
- Green Beans
- Baby carrots
- Maple Syrup or Honey can be added to kibble
For more on what to do if your dog has kidney problems, be sure to watch Robert’s YouTube channel, updated with new content daily.