It’s easy to disregard the kidneys. In fact, you may assume that once you’ve house trained your cat or dog you never have to think about them at all. The kidneys, though, have several very important functions including regulating minerals in the body, stimulating bone marrow to produce red blood cells, helping regulate blood pressure, and, of course, filtering and excreting waste. Because they play such a central role in the body, diseases that affect the kidneys can have a significant impact on your pet’s overall health. Thus, all pet owners should know the facts about kidney disease.
Unfortunately, kidney disease is fairly common in dogs and cats. Bacterial infections of the kidneys can usually be successfully treated with antibiotics, but kidney failure (also known as renal failure) cannot be cured.
Cats and dogs may suffer acute kidney failure in which kidney functions begin to shut down quickly. Exposure to toxins or poisons, shock, dehydration, congestive heart failure, and other sudden events may cause acute renal failure. Pets usually require emergency treatment for this condition, but even with prompt attention the prognosis is usually poor.
The most common type of renal failure in pets is chronic. It’s often a disease of older dogs or cats. However, it can also occur in young pets as a result of long-standing infections, tumors, cysts, viral diseases, or other conditions that damage the parts of the kidneys that filter waste.
If your pet seems to have pain around the kidneys and passes urine that contains pus or blood, most likely the problem is a bacterial infection. In cases of kidney failure (chronic or acute), the first symptoms are usually increased thirst and more frequent urination. By the time you see these problems, the damage is usually irreversible. With advanced renal failure, cats and dogs may suffer from a variety of symptoms, including eating or digestive problems (refusing to eat, vomiting, diarrhea); behavioral changes (lack of energy, depression); and physical signs (dry coat, discoloration of the tongue).
In the case of a bacterial infection in the kidneys, antibiotic treatments should offer a full cure.
With kidney failure, there is no cure. However, several treatment options can help extend the life of your cat or dog while trying to relieve symptoms. The first step is to provide plenty of water for your pet. Next, your veterinarian might recommend switching your pet to a low-protein diet in order to reduce the amount of waste the kidneys need to process. Other treatments that can relieve symptoms include: increasing your pet’s intake of water soluble vitamins and potassium, giving your pet sodium chloride tablets, trying to lower parathyroid hormone levels in your pet’s body with low doses of vitamin D, and (if necessary) offering medication to treat bladder stones. Some pet owners have sought out kidney dialysis and kidney transplants for their pets. However, these are very expensive treatment options and still include some risks.
More on Kidney Disease
4 Principles of Nutrition for Treating Kidney Disease
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.