How can I tell if my dog has kidney problems?
Frequent urination and drinking, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting and lethargy should raise alarm bells, in any case. These symptoms may indicate kidney problems in your dog. It is only possible to definitively identify kidney failure with both blood and urine tests. Kidney failure can be roughly divided into two types: chronic and acute. In this blog, we take a closer look at chronic kidney problems in dogs. How to recognize it? And what may a dog with kidney problems do (and not do)?
What causes kidney problems in dogs?
As with most illnesses, chronic kidney problems can arise from a variety of causes. Though congenital kidney defects are possible, kidney problems usually develop later in life. Frequent causes include:
- Infections in the urinary tract and kidneys themselves, or elsewhere in the body.
- Amyloidosis, a buildup of certain proteins in the kidneys. This mainly occurs in certain breeds, such as in Shar Peis.
- PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease), or cyst formation in the kidneys, resulting in kidney failure. This disease mainly affects certain breeds of terrier (Bull, West, Highland and Cairn).
- Eating or drinking toxic substances, such as lilies (the flowers, in particular) or medications.
- Diabetes, dehydration and heart problems often also result in kidney problem in dogs.
Symptoms of kidney problems in dogs
Symptoms of kidney problems in dogs often only appear at a later stage. We humans can generally function just fine on a single kidney (50 percent), and the same is true of dogs. Symptoms only become visible when kidney function drops below 25 percent. With chronic kidney failure, kidney function deteriorates gradually. Unfortunately, in these cases, the kidneys are already irreversibly damaged. The most important symptoms:
- Frequent drinking and urination: The urine is often watery because the kidneys are no longer able to adequately concentrate the urine. This means your dogs needs to drink more.
- Lethargy due to anemia: The kidneys cannot produce enough of the hormone EPO, which stimulates red blood cell production.
- Loss of appetite, or even nausea and vomiting: The kidneys are no longer able to process waste properly. This may cause ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract, the stomach and the mouth.
If you notice a change in your dog’s behavior or that you dog does not feel well, always contact your veterinarian.
And what may a dog with kidney problems do (and not do)?
To prevent dehydration, it is vital for your dog to continue drinking plenty of fluids. Dogs with kidney problems should not consume too much protein, phosphorous or salt. Normal dog food contains too much of these ingredients for a dog with kidney problems. This makes a kidney diet, with food specially developed to support the kidneys, a key part of treatment.
What food should you give a dog with kidney problems?
If your veterinarian definitively diagnoses chronic kidney problems in your dog, he or she will suggest a detailed treatment plan to improve your dog’s life expectancy and quality of life. Your dog’s diet will be a key part of this treatment. There are pet foods available that are specially formulated to support your dog’s kidney and liver function. This special dietary pet food is low in phosphorous, salt and protein (which means less waste for the kidneys to filter out). This food also provides high levels of fish oil (lowers the blood pressure) and vitamin E (protects the kidneys). Naturally, the kibble is also delicious, so your dog will eat plenty of it. Ask your veterinarian about the best food for your dog.