dog having veterinary check up

Dog renal disease: dealing with kidney problems in dogs

Your dog’s kidneys are a hardworking organ that play an important part in keeping your pet healthy. As well as removing toxins and helping to produce the hormones needed for the production of red blood cells, the kidneys even help to maintain your dog’s blood pressure. With so much to do, it’s common for a dog’s kidneys to stop working properly as they get older.

Kidney failure in dogs

As you might expect, kidney failure simply means the dog’s kidneys no longer work properly. Like many conditions, it falls into two categories: acute – meaning it flares up quickly and may be intense – and chronic – meaning slow to develop, but persistent. 

When a dog first starts to develop kidney disease the healthy parts of his kidneys compensate for any damage or wear and tear by working harder. As the disease gets progressively worse, the healthy parts of the kidneys start to shrink. Eventually they simply can’t keep up, and the symptoms worsen.

Will my dog develop kidney failure?

Kidney failure can be caused by your dog’s age, by infection, a tumour, or even because your dog’s eaten something poisonous to them, like antifreeze. It can cause serious damage to the kidneys, that may be either permanent or reversible, depending on the cause.

Chronic kidney failure – sometimes called chronic renal failure, or CRF – is one of the most common causes of illness and death in dogs aged seven and older. Younger dogs can also develop the condition, though this is less common. 

Unlike acute kidney failure, chronic renal failure develops slowly, sometimes over a number of months or even years. When a dog develops CRF, his organs stop working properly and his overall health slowly deteriorates. 
Certain breeds are most likely to develop CRF, including bull terriers, German shepherds, and English cocker spaniels.

Signs and symptoms of kidney disease in dogs

If you notice your dog weeing more and drinking more to compensate for the lost fluids, this may be a sign that his kidneys are struggling to work properly. Kidney disease can also put dogs off their food, they may be sick and they can become tired and lethargic as a result.

Treating kidney failure in dogs

Kidney disease in dogs isn’t always curable, but in those cases that aren’t it can often be managed with a special diet and medication for any associated conditions. Your vet will talk you through the options to improve your dog’s quality of life.

“Chronic kidney failure – sometimes called chronic renal failure, or CRF – is one of the most common causes of illness and death in dogs aged seven and older.”

Advice on kidney problems in dogs

For expert advice and treatment on kidney disease and kidney failure in dogs, contact your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.