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Kidney Disease In Dogs: The info you need to know from a veterinarian

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Did you just get the diagnosis that your dog has problems with their kidneys? You may now be looking for information on what causes your dog to have issues with their kidneys and what you can do to help. This article will cover all these points.

Types of Kidney Disease in Dogs

There are different types of kidney disease. Some are easily corrected and have no lasting damage but do have discomfort, while some are more complicated and usually irreversible.

Acute Kidney Failure

Some type of damage to the kidney, such as toxin or drug exposure that suddenly causes a decrease in kidney function is Acute Kidney Failure. This type of kidney disease is often reversible if caught early. Your veterinarian will start your dog on IV fluids to help flush the toxins of the kidneys. Acute Kidney Failure can also be deadly or lead to chronic kidney failure if not caught and treated early

Chronic Kidney Failure

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Chronic Kidney Failure is due to genetics or old age. This is a slow progression of kidney disease, which starts with just mild signs of kidney disease such as drinking a lot more water or urinating more. With chronic renal failure, it can be harder to treat. At the initial diagnosis, your veterinarian may give your pet IV fluids to help the kidneys function better. Your pet will end up taking daily supplements and a change in diet to help the kidneys function properly.

Congenital Kidney Disease

Some dogs are born with kidney problems. They may have underdeveloped kidneys or masses or cyst on their kidneys. Depending on what is causing the kidney disease, this may never affect them, or it may significantly shorten their life.


Glomerulonephritis is an inflammation of the tubes in the kidneys. The tubes are used to filter the urine flowing through the kidney. When these tubes get inflamed, they can also become damaged, causing kidney disease.

Lyme Disease-related Kidney Failure

If your dog gets bit by a tick, they could contract Lyme disease. Sometimes Lyme disease affects the kidneys. When it does, it causes kidney disease in your dog. This can be very hard to treat and usually leaves them with long term damage to their kidneys.

Causes of Kidney Disease

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Many different things can damage your dog's kidneys.

Ticks with Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is carried by ticks and can cause your dog to have kidney disease.

Ingested toxins

If your dog accidentally ingests some toxin such as antifreeze or tainted food. These could cause your dog to suffer from Acute Kidney damage. This can sometimes be reversible, but sometimes it cannot.

Certain Medications

Particular medication can also cause kidney damage. Over the counter, human pain medication can be hazardous to your dog's kidneys. Drugs such as Advil, Aleve, and Motrin can cause kidney problems in your dog. Ask your veterinarian for pain medication for your dog. Make sure to follow the dosing instruction from your vet as giving to much of veterinary pain medication can also cause kidney problems. Veterinary NSAIDs are safer than human meds, but there are still risks. Also, Vitamin D can cause kidney damage in dogs.

Before starting your dog on any new medication, it is best to ask your veterinarian and make sure that you are giving them the correct dosage. A small dosage of some medicines could cause irreversible kidney problems in your dog.

Signs Your Dog May Have Kidney Disease

Brown Poodle Walking through a park happily

There are many signs and symptoms that your dog has kidney problems. Many of these signs can also be signs of other diseases. If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it is best to consult your veterinarian to help diagnosis what is wrong with your dog.

Increased thirst

Dogs with kidney problems will drink more water. This is a common sign seen in dogs with kidney disease but also diabetes

Increased peeing

Since your dog is drinking more water, they will even be peeing more. This is very common the first thing that dog owners notice.

Weight Loss

As your dog progresses with kidney disease, you will notice that they are losing weight. You may see that they are losing muscle mass around their faces. While weight loss in some dogs is needed. If you are not actively trying to get your pet to lose weight, and they have lost weight, it is best to seek veterinary care.

Bad Breath

Two wet Golden Retrievers on the rocky shore of a lake

Dogs with kidney disease will have bad breath. This could also mean that your dog has dental disease or some other problem in their mouth. Bad breath can be due to numerous diseases.

Lethargy and depression

Dogs with kidney disease will be more lethargic and seem depressed. If your dog has slowed down, it is best to have your veterinarian examine your dog. Sometimes they will slow down due to old age but many times there is an underlying problem.

Ratty coat

Dogs with kidney disease will have a poor hair coat. If you are having a hard time keeping your dog’s hair nice and shiny, they may have kidney disease.

Sore Mouth

Dogs with kidney disease can have sores in their mouths. These are called uremic ulcers. The kidneys are supposed to flush this out of your dog's system. Since the kidneys are not functioning correctly, the uremia will build up, causing ulcers in their mouth.

What to do for Your Dog

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it is best to seek veterinary care. Your veterinarian will want to run a complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry panel, urinalysis and diagnostic imaging such as x rays and ultrasound. These tests will help determine what is causing these signs and the severity of the kidney damage. CBD can also help certain symptoms associated with kidney disease but make sure to check with your veterinarian to make sure it is safe for your dog!

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Hearing that your dog has kidney disease can be frightening at first. Following your veterinarians’ recommendations and providing your pet the diet and supplements, your pet can still live a long healthy and happy life.

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Kidney Disease In Dogs By Sara Ochoa

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM
Since she was a little girl, she knew that her dream was to become a veterinarian. With a tremendous passion and love for animals that makes her a great source of knowledge for others. She lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies Ruby the Schnoodle, and Bam-Bam the bunny.

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