The Most Important Canine Kidney Disease Facts

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Canine Kidney Disease (CKD) is also known as Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) or Canine Kidney Failure. It affects mostly older dogs, but can been seen in dogs of any age. While there is no cure for kidney disease in dogs, the prognosis is good for animals that receive early treatment.

Function of the Kidneys

The kidneys are the organs that filter impurities from the blood. They maintain the correct balance of water and electrolytes in the body. When the kidneys become compromised, toxins begin to enter the bloodstream that then affect the entire body. Long-term kidney disease can cause kidney damage that is not reversible.

Symptoms of Canine Kidney Disease

Symptoms of CKD may be vague at the beginning. Many symptoms do not appear until the kidneys are already damaged. An alert pet owner should be aware of these symptoms:

  • Increased thirst and drinking large amounts of water
  • Vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Tenderness in the kidney area
  • Low or decreased urine output
  • Lethargy and depression
  • Physical changes, such as a darkend tongue or breath that smells of ammonia


While aging dogs may have more problems with their kidneys, other factors can cause CKD. They include:

  • Poisons, especially ingestion of antifreeze or rat poison
  • Diseases, such as Leptospirosis or heart disease
  • Trauma, especially a trauma that causes a sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Medications, such as antibiotics or chemotherapy drugs
  • Cysts in the kidney
  • Birth defects of the kidneys


Only a veterinarian can accurately diagnose CKD. Usually the vet will examine a blood sample and perform a urine analysis. For more complicated cases, an x-ray or ultrasound may be needed. A biopsy may be required if there is a suspicion of a birth defect or cancer.The blood sample will be used for a variety of tests. The tests will measure the amount of various substances in the blood. One substance is blood urea nitrogen (BUN) which does not normally appear in the blood. Phosphorus levels may be elevated if there is renal disease. Creatinine is a substance that is only produced by the kidneys. Its levels will be elevated if the kidneys are compromised.

The urine analysis will determine how concentrated the urine is and how much protein is present. In dogs with kidney disease, the urine concentration is abnormal and too much water is lost. The urine will also show elevated protein levels. The urine is then tested for the amount and types of sediments present. Blood cells in the urine or kidney cells indicate renal disease.


Treatment options begin with eliminating the cause of the disease. This may entail treating an underlying condition or disease. Treatment will also focus on helping the kidneys perform as effectively as possible.

Standard treatment for kidney disease includes the following:

  • Plenty of fresh, clean water available at all times
  • High quality food formulated for dogs with kidney disease
  • Medications such as steroids and anti-vomiting drugs
  • Supplements to help replace lost vitamins and restore pH levels
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids to help remove the toxins in the body
  • In some cases, a kidney transplant or kidney dialysis

Dry dog food is not a good option for kidney disease patients due to its low water and high sodium content.

Alternative treatments may also be an option for your dog. Stress reduction is important. Acupuncture is also an option that has been shown to be helpful to canine kidney disease patients.


While there is no sure way to prevent kidney disease in dogs, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the possibility of your dog suffering from CKD:

  • Keep your dog current on all vaccinations.
  • Visit the vet regularly, especially if you notice any changes in your dog.
  • Provide fresh, clean water for your dog.
  • Feed your dog high quality dog food.
  • Remove any potential poisons from the home.

Kidney disease in dogs is a serious illness. However, with early detection and good care, it is possible for a dog to live many years with an excellent quality of life.

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The Most Important Canine Kidney Disease Facts