5 Things to Know about Pet Kidney Failure How to Care for Cats and Dogs with Kidney Failure

5 Things to Know about Pet Kidney Failure
expert or vet photo
vet verified PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian DVM

Kidney disease can be a scary thing to deal with as a pet parent. Here are a few things you should know, in order to better take care of your pet.

Kidney disease is usually fatal for dogs and cats. As a pet owner, that might make you feel anxious and upset, especially if youโ€™ve noticed changes in your petโ€™s fluid intake or urine output. To help you better care for pets that have renal problems and improve their quality of life, keep in mind these five facts about kidney disease.

All dogs and cats have some risk of kidney failure.

Older pets are more susceptible to kidney failure since nephrons that work as filters in the kidneys can deteriorate with advanced age. However, dogs and cats of any age can be victims of kidney failure. Acute kidney failure especially might occur in younger or otherwise healthy pets since this condition can result from unexpected events. Seemingly healthy pets may also suffer from chronic kidney failure for a variety of reasons. Thatโ€™s why it is important to have your pet examined if you notice changes in urination or drinking habits.

An early diagnosis can improve your petโ€™s quality of life.

Talk with your veterinarian as soon as you see signs of kidney failure. Using urinalysis and blood tests, the veterinarian can determine how well your petโ€™s kidneys are functioning. You cannot reverse kidney damage or cure your pet, but starting treatments such as a low-protein diet or supplements as soon as possible may help slow the progression of kidney damage so that your pet can have a fuller and longer life.

You may never know why your pet has kidney failure.

Itโ€™s natural to want to understand what went wrong (and, specifically, how you could have prevented your petโ€™s kidney failure). However, itโ€™s often impossible for veterinarians to know what exactly caused kidney failure in dogs and cats, especially if the kidney failure is chronic. The most important thing, therefore, is to focus on supporting your pet through this difficult disease and not worrying about what might have been.

Treatments can make a difference.

Even in cases of kidney failure, when the prognosis is fatal, there are things you can do that will help make pets more comfortable and able to enjoy their remaining months or years. A low-protein diet, for instance will reduce the amount of work the kidneys need to do, supplements can ensure that electrolytes and vitamins are in balance which will help maintain strength and reduce pain, and some prescription medications can help you avoid complications that could cause your cat or dog further discomfort.

Be aware of changes in blood pressure.

Hypertension is common in pets with chronic kidney failure. Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to more rapid deterioration of the kidneys and complications such as blindness. These will affect your petโ€™s quality of life and how long your cat or dog will survive. Be sure your veterinarian gets an accurate blood pressure reading at each visit. If he confirms hypertension, you might be able to manage the condition with proper medication.

Why Renal Amyloidosis In Dogs And Cats Can Cause Kidney Failure

Amyloidosis is a condition wherein a waxy protein substance called amyloid is deposited in a petโ€™s organs or tissues. In the case of renal amyloidosis, the protein substance is deposited in the kidney and interrupts normal functioning, often leading to kidney failure. Read on to learn what you need to know about renal amyloidosis in dogs and cats.

Causes of Renal Amyloidosis

In many pets, renal amyloidosis is idiopathic, meaning that the cause is not known. However, familial (or hereditary) amyloidosis seems to occur in certain dog and cat breeds, including the Shar-PeiBeagleEnglish FoxhoundAbyssinian cat, and Siamese cat.

The condition can also be a reaction to chronic inflammation, a chronic infection (including a parasitic infection), immune-mediated diseases (those caused by an abnormal immune system response), cancer, and other health conditions.

Regardless of the cause, renal amyloidosis can wreak havoc on the kidney (or kidneys). The amyloid deposits surround and slowly destroy kidney cells, and because the kidney is an organ that cannot replace or regenerate cells, the damage is often irreversible. Kidney failure is likely to occur once a certain number of cells, and the structures they make up (filtering units called nephrons), have been destroyed.

Symptoms of Renal Amyloidosis

Symptoms that may be seen in dogs and cats include:

  • Increased thirst and urination (due to protein loss in the urine)
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Ascites (fluid in the abdomen)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Edema (swelling, often in limbs, joints, and face)

Treatment for Renal Amyloidosis

Your veterinarian will diagnose renal amyloidosis through a discussion of symptoms, a physical examination, and a series of tests including complete blood count and chemistry, urinalysis, x-ray, and/or ultrasound to evaluate the structure of the kidney, and a kidney biopsy. The biopsy is typically the final word in diagnosing renal amyloidosis.

Treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the condition. Common options include:

  • Treating any underlying condition -- such as chronic infection -- that may have caused renal amyloidosis.

  • Pets suffering from kidney failure as a result of renal amyloidosis may require hospitalization to reverse dehydration with fluid therapy. Following stabilization, treatment for kidney failure may include medications, supplements, and a special diet.

While certain medications may be prescribed to treat kidney failure or the complications
of renal amyloidosis, never give your pet any medication without first consulting your veterinarian. Medications that require normal kidney function to work may be harmful to a pet suffering from a kidney condition.

Because renal amyloidosis is sometimes inherited, do not breed affected pets.

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.

Was this article helpful?
Kidney Failure

You May Also Like