4 Signs of Kidney Problems in Dogs (And What to Do)

Dog kidneys have the same important role as human kidneys. They maintain the balance of certain substances in the blood and remove the toxins from the dog's body through urine. They also have a part in controlling blood pressure and produce a hormone responsible for the production of red blood cells.

These are a few of the most important functions that kidneys perform, and when they don’t work properly, toxins can build up in the blood and cause significant health issues, some of which may even be fatal. Here are some of the signs of kidney problems in dogs, how to prevent them, and what to do about them.

Signs of Kidney Problems in Dogs

It's not easy to spot some of the symptoms of your dog's kidney issues. However, if you do notice any of the below, take your dog to the vet for a check-up and a more accurate assessment.

1. Urinary Problems

Increased urine production and, consequently, excessive urination are the most common symptoms of kidney issues. This is usually followed by increased thirst.

In some cases, bladder problems, blood in urine, and/or inability to hold urine (urinary incontinence) can also be present. Your dog might even have accidents if he feels the need to urinate at nighttime.

If you notice that your pooch is drinking more water than usual or needs to pee more often, you need to check the reason behind it.

2. Appetite Changes

While appetite changes can be a sign of many different health problems, loss of appetite can also be a symptom of kidney problems. Vomiting can also be present.

If your dog seems to eat less or not eat anything at all, take him to the vet because that can signal some serious issue, even if it is not related to kidneys.

3. Oral and Dental Problems

Mouth sores and pale gums are often caused by kidney problems. Bad breath (halitosis) with a chemical odor can also be a sign of kidney disease. Oral ulcers are a common sign in the later stages of kidney failure, and you should react fast if you notice them.

4. Behavioral Changes

Kidney problems can lead to lethargy and depression. There might also be symptoms of neurological problems, such as loss of coordination and stumbling when walking.

What Causes Kidney Problems in Dogs?

There are many risk factors when it comes to chronic kidney problems in dogs, according to the International Renal Interest Society (IRIS):

  • Breed – Some breeds are at higher risk of kidney problems than others, like Bull Terriers, Boxers, Spaniels and Chinese Shar Pei.
  • Age – Kidney disease and other kidney problems are more frequent in older dogs, but they can also start at a young age.
  • Drugs – Some medications, or rather therapeutic agents, are believed to impact the development of chronic kidney disease, such as sulfonamides, amphotericin, polymyxins, etc.

What Causes Kidney Problems in DogsChronic kidney problems usually develop slowly and are often caused by some underlying illness or hereditary and congenital conditions. The most prevalent ones include cardiac diseases, urethral obstruction, hypercalcemia, infectious diseases, and particularly dental disease.

In fact, advanced dental disease is caused by bacteria that can enter the bloodstream and attack multiple organs in a dog’s body, including the heart, liver, and kidneys. Stress can also contribute to the development of kidney problems.

Kidney problems can also be caused by ingestion of toxins, which cause rapid kidney failure in a matter of days, but this is acute kidney injury, not chronic. Some of the dangerous toxins include antifreeze, tainted foods, medications, etc.

How Are Kidney Problems Diagnosed?

Your vet will start with a simple physical examination. Taking your dog to regular vet checkups is a good way to discover possible kidney problems at the earliest stage.

If the physical examination shows any signs of potential kidney problems, further testing is necessary for a proper diagnosis. This may include blood tests, infectious disease testing, diagnostic imaging, and kidney sampling.

How to Prevent Kidney Problems?

Kidney problems that come as a result of poisoning can be prevented by making sure that your dog doesn’t have access to hazardous substances, both inside and outside the house. Avoid giving your dog any medications without consulting your vet first. Provide fresh water for your pooch at all times, and don’t let him eat anything that might have gone bad.

Chronic kidney health issues can also be prevented in some cases. Since dental disease is the most common cause of kidney problems, proper oral hygiene can minimize the risk of kidney disease or failure. An appropriate, healthy diet can also help. Feed your dog high-quality food and make sure he is always hydrated.

How to Treat Kidney Problems?

How to Treat Kidney ProblemsThe treatment of kidney issues in dogs will depend on the type of the problem and the severity of it. It is also important to properly identify the cause of kidney problems.

If there is an underlying health problem that affects the kidneys, treating that issue can reverse the kidney-related problem. The best results in all cases are achieved when signs are spotted at the earliest stages, so take your dog to the vet at the earliest sign of trouble.

Some of the most common ways to treat kidney problems include medications that increase the production of urine, and generally monitoring the output of urine. Fluid therapy is crucial in treating dogs with kidney failure in order to prevent dehydration caused by large amounts of water released from the body.

Management of high blood pressure and abnormalities considering blood electrolytes are also utilized when necessary, as well as medications for gastrointestinal problems and especially vomiting. In some particularly dire instances, dialysis or even an organ transplant might be the only solution.

Dietary Changes

Appropriate nutrition and a kidney-friendly diet are needed to manage and improve the health of your dog’s kidneys. This means avoiding dry and highly processed foods that cause dehydration. Reduce the number of high-quality proteins and give your dog foods with high moisture content.

The 4 Signs of Kidney Problems in Dogs (And What to Do)Restrict the phosphorus intake or keep it down by adding calcium and dark, leafy greens. Use probiotics to help the body get rid of toxic waste and increase the number of good bacteria in your dog’s intestines.

It can be difficult to notice signs of kidney problems in a dog, but it is crucial to know what they are. Take your dog to the vet immediately if you notice increased thirst and urination in your dog or other symptoms like weight loss or mouth sores. Starting the treatment early is important and includes dietary changes, medications, and proper hydration.

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Kelly works as a veterinary technician in Austin, TX as well as regular animal rescue volunteer. She's been an animal lover and dog owner since childhood, and has worked in different dog related fields over the last twenty years. Currently she lives with three dogs and a cat.