Kidney failure (also known as chronic renal failure) is often a disease of the older dog or cat. The disease can be a symptom of aging or can be caused by a defect in the kidneys that caused the animal to have failure at a younger age. Chronic nephritis, a long-standing infection of the kidney, can cause damage over the course of time to result in kidney failure. Infections, like urinary tract infections, or fungal infections can also cause kidney failure as can trauma to the kidney area (from being hit by a car) or cancer, among other illnesses. Toxins and poisons, like anti-freeze, can also cause kidney failure. Even some medications meant to help a pet’s health might cause kidney failure.
Signs of Kidney Failure
One of the clearest, most obvious signs of kidney failure is increased thirst. This sign is followed by the next most obvious sign of kidney failure—increased urination. The kidneys are unable to retain the right amount of water, so the dog keeps urinating his fluid out, but is thirstier because his body is losing the water he needs.
Other signs may include vomiting, fever, and loss of appetite, among others.
Treatment for Kidney Failure
The veterinarian will diagnose your dog or cat with kidney failure following urinalysis and blood tests. From those tests, he or she can determine how well the kidneys are functioning.
Depending on the cause, the pet may require medication. Because of the nature of kidney failure, the kidneys will not get better. The goal of treatment is to keep the pet comfortable and help his body cope with the reduced kidney capacity as long as possible. Treatment may include diet changes to help reduce the load on the kidneys. Specialty diet formulas are made specifically for pets with kidney failure, and those diets may have reduced protein. Canned food is often recommended over dry food to increase more fluid intake.
Because some pets lose their appetite with kidney failure, making the food more appetizing might be encouraged, such as warming the food.
Other treatment may include fluid therapy where the animal is hydrated by injecting fluid under the skin. Vitamins, electrolytes, minerals or fatty acid supplements may be recommended to make up for all those necessary nutrients that are being lost.
Other, more aggressive treatments are available to pet owners including kidney transplant or dialysis. However, such treatments are often unaffordable for most pet owners. Depending on the cause and treatment, some pets can live for months, even years, with kidney failure.