Renal dysplasia is a congenital disease in which one or both of a pet’s kidneys develop abnormally. With renal dysplasia, the kidneys are typically small, deformed, and never fully mature. This condition often results in poor kidney function and, in many cases, kidney failure. While renal dysplasia is much more common in dogs, it can also affect cats. Read on to learn the causes, symptoms, and treatments of renal dysplasia in dogs and cats.
Causes of Renal Dysplasia in Dogs and Cats
The exact causes of renal dysplasia -- also known as progressive juvenile nephropathy and familial renal disease -- are not fully understood. In some pets, the condition is inherited through a recessive gene. Commonly affected dog breeds include the Alaskan Malamute, Bedlington Terrier, Chow Chow, Cocker Spaniel, Doberman Pinscher, Golden Retriever, Keeshond, Lhasa Apso, Miniature Schnauzer, Norwegian Elkhound, Samoyed, Shih Tzu, and Standard Poodle.
Some experts believe that the condition can also be caused by something called an intrauterine fetal infection, which is a bacterial or viral infection of fetal tissues that occurs in the mother’s uterus during pregnancy. Possible causes of intrauterine fetal infections include the canine herpesvirus, poisoning, and fetal trauma.
Symptoms of Renal Dysplasia in Dogs and Cats
Despite the fact that renal dysplasia is congenital (present since birth), symptoms often do not appear until weeks, months, or several years into a pet’s life. In some cases, a pet may not show any symptoms, or may show symptoms that are mild enough to go unnoticed.
The symptoms of renal dysplasia will vary depending on the severity of the condition, but will commonly include:
Treatment for Renal Dysplasia in Dogs and Cats
Visit your veterinarian if your pet is showing symptoms of renal dysplasia. Your veterinarian will diagnose the condition through a physical examination and testing. Testing may include full blood work and chemistry, a urinalysis, an x-ray, and/or ultrasound to evaluate kidney structure, and a kidney biopsy. A kidney biopsy is the only test that can definitively diagnose the condition.
Renal dysplasia can be tricky to treat. In most cases, a pet with two dysfunctional kidneys will end up suffering from kidney failure and is not likely to survive long-term. The outlook is better for pets with only one dysfunctional kidney, however those cases are rare.
The treatments available for renal dysplasia are intended to stabilize the pet and promote normal kidney function. Common treatment options include:
Pets suffering from renal dysplasia may benefit from a special diet that is low in salt and easy to metabolize. Your veterinarian may recommend a food or prescribe a specific diet. Vitamins and supplements may also be useful to make up for any nutrients that the pet is losing through excessive urination.
Many pets with renal dysplasia become dehydrated and require hospitalize to restore fluid levels. All pets suffering from renal dysplasia should have regular access to fresh, clean water.
Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to treat complications associated with renal dysplasia. For example, if your pet’s dehydration is the result of vomiting or diarrhea, your veterinarian may prescribe an antiemetic or antidiuretic. If your pet is suffering from bone pain, your veterinarian may prescribe painkillers. Never give your pet any medication without first consulting your veterinarian, as some medications could make your pet’s condition worse.
In severe cases, your veterinarian may suggest kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant. However, these procedures tend to be costly, and are usually only offered through specialized clinics.
There is no way to prevent renal dysplasia, however because the disease is sometimes inherited, you should not breed affected pets.
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