Kidney failure (also known as chronic renal failure, or canine or feline CRF) 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 time and result in kidney failure. Infections, like urinary tract infections or fungal infections, trauma to the kidney area (like from being hit by a car), toxins and poisons like antifreeze, and cancer, can also cause kidney failure, among other illnesses. 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. An affected pet's kidneys are unable to retain the right amount of water, so the pet keeps urinating fluid, but is thirstier because their body is losing the water they need.
Other signs may include vomiting, fever, and loss of appetite, among others.
Treatment for Kidney Failure
Your 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 their 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 their food more appetizing, such as warming up the food, might help.
Other treatment may include fluid therapy in which 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 the necessary nutrients that are being lost.
Other, more aggressive treatments are available to pet owners including kidney transplant or dialysis. Depending on the cause and treatment, some pets can live for months, even years, with kidney failure.
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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.