Kidney Disease in Canine: What to Know

Kidney Disease in Canine: What to Know

  • Kirsten Thornhill - 22.11.2021

What is Kidney Disease in Dogs?

Before we get right into the deep deep dive of kidney disease, let’s first talk about the importance of these vital organs that we may or may not give enough credit to. If we want to begin to understand just how important our kidneys are for preventing certain health concerns, we must talk about what exactly is at risk. 

In today’s article, we’ll discuss things you, as paw parents, should know about kidney disease in dogs. Whenever something goes wrong with any vital organs, such as the kidney, it’s a scary situation. With this being said, being able to recognize the early signs and symptoms of organ failure or damage can allow paw parents to act quickly and appropriately towards getting their puppers the necessary medical treatment needed. 

In addition, there are numerous preventative measures that you can take and implement in your dog’s life to ensure that their kidneys stay healthy and happy. 

Let’s get to it!

Understanding Kidney Function: 7 Benefits

For starters, the kidney is made up of millions and millions of microscopic units called nephrons. These nephrons are responsible for going through and separating chemicals into discarded and reabsorbed back into the bloodstream files. Urine is a byproduct when the discarded chemicals dissolve in water. Kinda cool, right?



1. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is necessary for our doggo’s bones to function properly and absorb phosphorus and calcium. The kidneys work hard to produce an active form of Vitamin D, keeping our furry friend’s bones strong and healthy. If the kidneys are suffering, however, this can cause damage to the rest of the body. 

2. Regulates pH Levels

The kidney helps your dog’s body regulate pH levels. As the cells begin to break down in your dog’s system, the cells turn into acids, per se. Different foods can cause cellular changes, resulting in acidic levels being too high or too low. Fortunately enough, the kidney can help regulate these levels by adding or removing acids in the body.

3. Removes Toxins

The kidneys play a key role in removing toxins, waste, and extra fluids from the body on a regular basis. Waste and extra fluids are stored in your dog’s bladder, well, until they urinate. But, if the kidneys are functioning correctly, this accumulation of toxins won’t get properly released and will continue to build up in their body. 

This large amount of toxins can lead to irreversible damage for your furry friend. Dogs are exposed to various toxins every day, it is inevitable. But, if their kidneys aren’t able to rid the body of these toxins, this is where an accumulation can build up quickly.

4. Helps Control Blood Pressure

The kidney can help control your canine’s blood pressure. The kidneys are able to work consistently to decrease or increase blood pressure by controlling fluid amounts and producing various hormones to cause their blood vessels to contract or relax. The kidneys can make these changes depending on what your dog’s body needs at any given time. Amazing, right?

Thus, if their kidneys aren’t functioning up to par, high blood pressure can lead to worsened kidney damage. Blood pressure should continuously be monitored, especially if your dog has kidney failure. Medication may be prescribed to help in controlling your dog’s blood pressure. 



5. Water Storage

If your pup is dehydrated, don’t worry, their kidneys have been conserving water during this time. The kidneys also work to remove any excess of water if they drink too much. This helps in preventing dilution in the bloodstream. Dogs with kidney disease aren’t able to produce concentrated urine, so they need to drink more water to help process their normal waste products. 

6. Balances Electrolytes

The kidneys also play a key role in controlling your dog’s electrolyte balances in their bloodstream. Poor kidney function may result in a lack of ability to conserve potassium. If their potassium levels decrease in the body, your paw friend may become weak and lethargic. Don’t worry too much if this is the case, potassium supplements are commonly prescribed if this is the scenario. 

We mentioned this briefly above, but a balance of phosphorus and calcium are needed in the blood at all times. Phosphorus rises when kidney dysfunction sets in, which will require continuous monitoring, therapeutic diet changes, and potential medicative prescriptions to keep their levels within normal ranges. 

7. Protein Storage

Nephrons use a type of filtration process to help conserve protein at the same time they are discarding waste. If the nephrons are damaged, proteins can be lost in the urine. Proteinuria is closely monitored if your dog has kidney disease, especially if your dog is staging into kidney failure. 

It’s incredibly crucial that your dog’s kidney function is in pristine health. They are essential to your dog’s well-being, quality of life, and daily function. 



Where are the Kidneys?

Like us humans, our doggos have two kidneys! These are located in the dorsal abdomen alongside the lumbar spinal region. 

What is Kidney Disease?

Kidney disease is also known as renal disease, which refers to any condition that may cause damage to the kidneys. In some instances, dogs may show early signs of kidney damage and if paw parents are able to recognize the symptoms quickly, treatment can be readily available. It may even be possible to reverse any short-term damage with a proper and diagnosed medical intervention from a licensed veterinarian. 

Unfortunately, most cases of kidney disease aren’t diagnosed until it’s too late - when they’ve lost up to 75% of their kidney function. 



With this being said, the early recognition of kidney damage can truly save your pup’s life! A routine check-up through preventative measures at the vet can help paw parents ensure that their furry babies are continuously in good kidney health. 

Kidney Disease vs Kidney Failure

Kidney disease and failure may be used interchangeably. The biggest difference here is the stage of kidney dysfunction. For instance, stages one and two may be referred to as kidney disease and stages three and four may be referred to as kidney failure. Kidney disease, in the early stages, is potentially reversible. On the other hand, kidney failure, in the later stages, are often irreversible.

What are the Types of Kidney Disease?

1. Acute Kidney Disease in Dogs (AKD)

Acute kidney disease in canines begins when there is a quick decline in kidney function. This can happen in a matter of a couple of days, with or without much warning. The most common reason for acute kidney disease in doggos is due to toxin ingestion, including poison, medication for humans, or antifreeze of some sort. 

AKD can even develop from infections or urinary obstructions, decreases in blood flow, or decreases in oxygen level delivery to vital organs. 

Acute kidney disease usually has a root cause that vets are able to pinpoint. Thus, dogs with AKD should be able to start treatment sooner than later, with vets ensuring that this acute damage does not cause any permanent harm. 

Every dog’s case is totally different though, so we encourage you to talk with your vet immediately if you suspect any changes or complications with fido’s behavior or health. 

AKD Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of AKD can fall under the ‘general’ signs and symptoms of kidney disease. The biggest difference between general kidney disease and AKD is how rapidly the symptoms may develop. It’s important that paw parents know and understand that timely diagnosis and medical intervention is needed. 



2. Chronic Kidney Disease in Dogs (CKD)

The second type of kidney disease in canines is chronic kidney disease (CKD). The chronic part of the disease refers to a condition that slowly develops over a long period of time. In addition, chronic can mean diseases that are constantly occurring or recurring. For this reason, the underlying cause of CKD in dogs can be extremely hard to diagnose, even with extensive tests. 

CKD Signs and Symptoms

Similar to the general kidney disease signs and symptoms, those of CKD develop slowly with time. This can be scary because symptoms may not become obvious until your four-legged friend is experiencing a 75% loss of kidney function. Thus, it’s so important for you to know exactly when your dog’s health and well-being seems “different” or “off” and to act accordingly. 

Symptoms of CKD may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Vomit
  • Oral ulcers
  • Pale appearance
  • Bad breath
  • Reduced appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Urinary leakage
  • Lethargy

What are the Causes of Kidney Disease?

The kidneys can be damaged in numerous ways, more than we can count most times. Kidney damage may be caused by the following:

  • Stress
  • Blood clots or loss
  • Dehydration
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Infection
  • Shock
  • Kidney stones
  • Untreated diseases



Kidney Disease in Dogs: Final Thoughts

Being a responsible and caring paw parent isn’t always easy as some make it out to be. In particular, when issues come up, it can not only be a tough pill to swallow but also a quick recap of wondering when things go wrong.

From feeding your pup only the highest quality dog foods to giving them all the love and attention they desperately deserve, you do your best to ensure their needs are met, at any and all times. But, from time to time, health issues are inevitably going to rise. 

It’s so important that you are able to keep on top of your dog’s health and well-being, reacting in a way that keep your furry friend happy and healthy. 


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