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Canine kidney failure is a condition that not only frustrates the
affected animal, but also the human owner. If you’re pet owner
who just found out that your dog has kidney failure, the news can
be extremely disheartening.There is no denying that the times
ahead are going to be tough. However, it doesn’t have to be as
painful as you imagine it to be. You still have the ability and
power to make your dog’s life a little better and even prevent
the condition from progressing too soon.The solution lies in
using a broad approach. The more attention you pay to your dog’s
needs, the longer you are likely to have him/her around.But,
before we look at the solution, let us first take a look at
What is Kidney Failure?
Kidney failure or renal failure is not a condition in itself.
Rather, it is the consequence of a condition known as kidney
disease or renal disease. Kidney disease generally affects older
animals, but, is found in younger animals as well.There are
primarily 2 kinds of kidney disease – acute and chronic. In the
former type, the symptoms show up all of a sudden, with the cause
usually being toxicity. In the latter type, the condition is
progressive and worsens gradually over time. The symptoms tend to
be very unspecific, which makes it harder to detect at an early
stage.The acute or chronic nature of kidney disease is determined
by the cause. As for causes, there are many including age,
infections (viral, bacterial or fungal), abnormal protein
deposits (amyloidosis), trauma, toxicity (through ingestion of
medication or toxic substances), and autoimmune diseases
etc.General symptoms include an increase in urination and water
consumption, along with nocturnal urination, vomiting, weight
loss, lethargy and blood in urine etc. There could also be a
decrease in or complete lack of urination as well.
The only way to deal with kidney disease is by seeking medical
treatment. Once your veterinarian is able to confirm the
condition, which is achieved by observing symptoms and carrying
out several tests, he/she will suggest a change in diet and
prescribe medication and therapy.Fluid therapy is one form of
treatment. This treatment is provided in direct response to your
dog’s need for fluids, which is something that all kidney disease
patients suffer from. Their kidneys fail to concentrate urine,
resulting in more water being passed out. This affects the body’s
fluid balance.So, you will be required to compensate for the
fluid loss by giving your dog more water. As the condition
progresses, your dog will require subcutaneous fluids. The
administering of subcutaneous fluids can be done at home. Most
veterinarians will train owners on this.Potassium may also be
included in the fluids to maintain electrolyte balance and in
some cases, fluids may be administered intravenously.Apart from
Fluid Therapy, changes will be made to the dog’s diet. Usually,
this included a low quantity-high quality protein diet. The idea
is to minimize thee stress on the kidneys. The dietary change is
introduced gradually to ensure that the dog gets used to it.The
protein content must be optimal – more or less will lead to other
complications. For example, low protein leads to protein
malnutrition, which isn’t healthy at all.So, make sure your dog
is checked on a regular basis by your vet. With the right kind of
treatment, your dog is sure to live a better and longer life.
Is A Kidney Transplant Right For My Pet?
The kidneys serve several important functions in the body,
including removing waste and excess water from the blood; helping
to control blood pressure; stimulating the production of red
blood cells; releasing hormones; and balancing minerals. Because
the kidneys play such a central role in the body, diseases that
affect the kidneys can have a serious impact on your overall
pet’s health. And in many cases, kidney
disease turns out to be fatal.
Most cases of kidney failure in pets are treated with some
combination of nutritional therapy, medication, and
lifestyle changes. But for some pets, a kidney transplant may
also be an option.
So how can you know if a kidney transplant is right for your pet?
Let’s take a look.
What Is a Kidney Transplant?
A kidney transplant is a surgical procedure in which a pet’s
diseased kidney is replaced by another pet’s healthy kidney.
However, the procedure is not necessarily as simple as it sounds,
and it’s not a quick fix. Pets that receive new kidneys need to
receive immunosuppressive medications to
prevent the body from rejecting the new organ. In addition, there
is always risk of complications such as infection or blood
clotting, so the decision to carry out a transplant should not be
Where Do Kidney Donors Come From?
Feline donors generally come from research facilitates and in
most cases, the family of the recipient cat must adopt the donor cat
after the procedure.
For dogs, the owner is usually responsible for locating a donor,
and many programs require that the donor dog be related to the
recipient dog to reduce the likelihood of the recipient’s body
rejecting the new kidney.
Kidney Transplants: Cats vs. Dogs
Kidney transplants for cats have been performed since the
mid-1980s, and many cats that receive new kidneys have good
survival rates. The University of California at Davis program
indicates a 75-80% success rate for feline kidney transplant
The procedure is more complicated in dogs. Their immune systems
tend to reject new kidneys more often than cats, and they are
also at higher risk for procedure-related complications. The
long-term prognosis is not that great, either. The UC Davis
program sees only a 40% success rate for canine kidney transplant
Is Your Cat a Candidate for a Kidney Transplant?
Every kidney transplant center will have its own criteria for
determining if your cat is a good candidate for a transplant.
However in most the cases, the best candidates are:
- Cats that are otherwise
healthy and free of disease.
- Cats with
progressed-but-not-advanced kidney failure, i.e. kidney failure
should not be in the early stages, nor should it be the late
- Cats that have not responded
to other treatments.
- Cats with creatinine levels
greater than 4.0 mg/dl.
Any cat that is being considered for a kidney transplant must be
thoroughly screened to ensure that they are healthy enough for
the procedure. A typical screening includes:
- Blood testing (including basic
blood panel, blood typing, and blood pressure monitoring)
- Urine culture
leukemia virus screening
- Screening for toxoplasmosis
- Cardiac evaluation
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Dental evaluation
- Cross match testing between
the recipient cat and the donor cat to ensure compatibility
Is Your Dog a Candidate for a Kidney Transplant?
The screening procedure for dogs is usually the same as it is for
cats. Just like cats, the dog should be otherwise healthy and
free of disease and must undergo certain tests. In addition to
many of the tests carried out on cats, dogs must also be screened
for heartworm disease and
blood clotting disorders.
Even if your cat or dog is a good candidate for a kidney
transplant, there are certain factors to consider before jumping
into the procedure:
Complications: Kidney transplants do not always go
smoothly, and common complications include rejection of the new
kidney (and thus the return of kidney failure); infection as a
result of immunosuppressive therapy (common in dogs); blood
clots; and scarring of the ureter (the tube that carries urine
from the new kidney to the bladder. If scarring occurs, another
surgery is required).
transplants tend to be very expensive; they can range anywhere
from $12,000 to $20,000. In addition, pets that receive new
kidneys will require immunosuppressive medication for the rest
of their lives. The most widely prescribed immunosuppressive
drug – Cyclosporine –
costs around $150 for a month’s supply. The University of
Georgia estimates that owners generally end up spending around
$1000 a year for medications and follow-up testing.
Care: As mentioned above, pets that receive new
kidneys will need to take medication for the rest of their
lives. You must commit to administering the medication twice a
day. In addition, the use of Cyclosporine requires periodic
blood level monitoring, and the long-term use of the drug
increases your pet’s chance of developing cancer.
If you are thinking about a kidney transplant for your
pet, talk to your veterinarian.