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Kidney Failure in Dogs

Your veterinarian has just told you that your beloved pet is experiencing kidney failure. What does that mean for your dog and for you as a pet owner as you care for him? Kidney failure means that the kidneys are not functioning properly and are unable to remove waste products from the blood in the body. This does not mean that your pet is unable to produce urine, which is a common misconception. In fact, a dog that has failing kidneys might be producing large amounts of urine, but the body’s wastes are not effectively eliminated.

The kidney’s primary function in the body is to help to maintain and regulate chemicals in the blood, and is a filtering system for waste products that come through the dog’s urine. When the kidneys are not working as they should, the toxins in the blood will not be filtered out. As a result, your dog’s survival is threatened by the buildup of toxins and waste in his system.

The size of your dog may give you an idea of when your pet may experience kidney difficulties. Large dogs may begin to have symptoms as early as seven years of age, whereas smaller dogs don’t normally experience them until between 10-14 years of age. There are naturally exceptions where dogs much younger than these ages may be affected. It can be a normal part of aging, though, so it is important to watch for signs that your pet is uncomfortable.

What symptoms would you see if your pet has kidney failure or is in the early stages? Your dog may have blood in his urine, be drinking more water than usual (dehydration), vomiting, have loss of appetite, be more lethargic than usual, experience diarrhea, have a stiff gait when he walks, or you may see the condition of his coat diminish. Urination can be a symptom too, but for every dog it is different. They may urinate more than usual, less than usual, or you may see a complete lack of urination.

If you suspect your dog is experiencing kidney failure, take him to the veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. There are two phases of treatment.

The first phase is meant to kick start the kidneys. Large quantities of fluids are fed to your dog intravenously. At the same time, electrolyte replacement, primarily potassium, is taking place. One of three things will happen after this first phase: 1) The kidneys will function again and continue to do so for a varied amount of time, from weeks to years. 2) The kidneys will function during the treatment, but not after. 3) The kidneys will not function at all.

The second phase of treatment may include a special diet, fluids given at home, and medications. There are even a few veterinary medical sites who offer kidney dialysis for dogs.

Many veterinarians will tell you that your dog could respond well to treatment and could live up to four more years with the proper treatment, and of course, a great big dose of love from you.


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