Kidney disease and failure can occur in dogs of any age, but senior dogs are most likely to develop kidney problems.
Just like human kidneys, your dog’s kidneys are very important because they filter waste substances out of the blood and maintain the normal balance of fluids and minerals within the body. When kidneys don't function properly, toxins build up in their blood and the dog will become ill.
Dogs may show early signs of kidney disease, but signs of serious illness only appear after 75% of the kidney function has been lost. Kidney damage is usually irreversible, that is why an early detection is very important. Detection can be done with a simple blood test and urinalysis. The right treatment can limit its progression.
Kidney failure in elderly dogs is usually the result of worn out organs. The less stress on your dog’s kidneys, the longer they will last.
What damages the kidneys? Factors that can make dogs more prone to kidney disease include: age; low quality diets, especially dry kibbles, high in phosphorus and/or with increased levels of protein; toxins; ingesting chemicals like disinfectants, antifreeze and lead paint; human medications like aspirin; cancer; injuries; and infections.
What are the signs of kidney disease? A large number of symptoms can occur depending on the original source of the condition. Change in water consumption, change in volume of urine produced, depression, decreased appetite, chemical odor of breath, vomiting, weight loss, blood in urine, mouth ulcers, pale gums.
What to look for in a blood test? Creatinine level (normal <1.4 mg/dL), blood urea level BUN (normal <35 mg/dL fasting). Other signs of some level of kidney dysfunction in a blood test are: decreased blood pH, decreased blood cells, decreased levels of calcium and potassium, increased levels of phosphorus, increased blood pressure.
How to prevent kidney disease? Not every cause of canine kidney failure is known or can be prevented but there are a number of things that you can do to extend the health and longevity of your dog’s kidney function:
Nutritional management: If your dog is diagnosed with some level of kidney dysfunction, modifying the dog’s diet can help to manage the disease. The nutritional management of renal failure will vary depending on the stage of the disease and might include reduced amounts of phosphorus, salt and protein in the diet. Also, dogs with kidney disease benefit from diets rich in omega 3 (from fish oil), antioxidants like vitamin E, C and carotenoids, and higher levels of vitamin D and B’s, Potassium and soluble fiber.
Why low phosphorus? When kidneys are not working properly they cannot excrete phosphorus at the same rate is ingested and thus it accumulates, causing the release of certain hormones in the body that induce loss of calcium in the bones. When this happen, phosphorus and calcium accumulates in renal tissue and make greater damage. It seems to be beneficial for dogs to reduce Phosphorus in food to <0.4%, as a percentage of dry matter.
Why low sodium? When kidneys are not working properly they cannot excrete sodium at the same rate is ingested and thus it accumulates, causing damage in the kidneys tissues and hypertension. It seems to be beneficial for dogs to reduce Sodium in food by 25 -50%, that is 0.05 gm. per 1000 kcal or 0.05%, as a percentage of dry matter.
Important: For accurate diagnosis and treatment options consult your veterinarian. This article is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.
About the author
Giselle Baba was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and adopted Dallas as her home since 2013. She is a certified Companion Animal Nutritionist from Southern Illinois University and the founder and president of Real Food For Dogs. She holds a MBA from the University of Barcelona, a Master in Marketing, a Master in Management, and a Bachelors in Advertising. She also has over 15 years of experience in business and marketing with Fortune 100 global companies.