Kidney failure in dogs: Surprising causes, symptoms and all you want to know

Kidney failure in dogs: Surprising causes, symptoms and all you want to know

Experts talk about common causes of kidney failure in dogs and how to spot some early signs.

Veterinary experts say it is important to get regular check-ups done as dogs get older to nip the kidney disease in the bud.(Pixabay)

Kidney disease is considered a silent killer in dogs and cats as there are rarely any early symptoms and by the time it is detected, there are chances that the disease has already progressed and become irreversible. Your canine child, may however, be displaying certain subtle signs that you must may attention to. Any unexplained vomiting or bad breath issues should not be ignored. Veterinary experts say it is important to get regular check-ups done as dogs get older to nip the kidney disease in the bud.

“Any variations in normal kidney functioning are considered kidney/renal disease. This variation can be due to functional or structural abnormalities in one or both kidneys. The severity of the disease depends on the amount of damage to the renal cells,” says Dr. Shantanu Kalambi, Chief Veterinarian, Supertails.

Dr Narendra Gandhi, Director, Dr Gandhi’s Pet Hospital in a telephonic conversation with HT Digital spoke about common causes of kidney disease in dogs and how to spot some early signs.


There are certain toxic foods that must not be given to dogs that includes grapes and raisins. Dr Gandhi says any food that is high in phosphorous must be avoided from egg yolk to red meat as it can damage kidneys in pets.

"Diet is one of the reasons behind kidney issues in dogs. Sometimes diet contains ingredients that are harmful for kidney. Commerical diets are sometimes culprits too," says the veterinary doctor.


"In some cases, there is a predisposition (in some breeds). For example, in case of Beagles, they have a genetic predisposition and a condition called idiopathic renal failure is likely to happen because of which the kidney function progressively reduces. According to research, 50% of Beagles would die of idiopathic renal failure," says Dr Narendra Gandhi.


Dr Gandhi says pig fever is another cause of renal failure in dogs. He adds that severe anaemia can also cause trouble as it can cause indirect renal failure because the blood does not flow through the kidneys properly.


The veterinary doctor says in some cases tumours can cause renal failure in dogs but the population affected by it is less than 1%.


Dr Gandhi says there are certain infections that are ascending in nature. These are the infections that go from external orifice and go all the way up to ureter and into the bladder and from bladder up to the kidney.


"Females are more prone to kidney infection simply because their urinary passage, their urethra is small and they pee very close to the ground, so they tend to pick more urinary tract infections which can lead to kidney complications, males also get it but not as frequently as females," says the expert.


Poor dental hygiene is another cause of kidney issues in dogs. "Plaque build-up in teeth is a major reason for renal insufficiency because those bacteria have lived in the system for a very long time and they cannot be cheated with antibiotics. They always invariably lead to kidney failure," says Dr Gandhi.


"Initial symptoms are unexplained vomiting. Urinary output is never the sign of kidney failure in dogs," says Dr Gandhi.

"When it comes to kidney related issues, signs to look out for are changes in the stool and urination volume and frequency. This is the most common way to identify that something may be wrong with your pet. Discolouration of stool and urine is also a common sign. Other signs may include vomiting or diarrhoea, change in appetite, loss of interest in play sessions, and signs of dental issues. Pet parents should always reach out to their vet when they first witness these issues, to get an early handle on the situation," says Devanshi Shah, Founder & CEO – Petkonnect.

Symptoms of kidney failure as per Dr Kalambi

● Loss of appetite

● Lethargy

● Vomiting

● Weight loss

● Excessive urination

● Excessive thirst

● Abdominal pain/enlargement (Ascites)

● Very Bad breath

● Blood in urine

● Pale mucous membrane/anaemia


"Kidney related issues are common in older pets, but can sometimes also be found in younger pets. Acute kidney related issues lead to kidney failure over several days while chronic kidney failure happens over a much longer period of time," says Shah.


Dr Shantanu Kalambi says renal failure in dogs can be of two types - acute and chronic.

Acute Kidney Disease (AKD) is a sudden decrease in renal function (in hours or days) leading to retention of nitrogenous waste in the body. Most commonly linked with infections and toxicities, acute kidney failure is reversible if diagnosed and treated early.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is the progressive loss of renal function (over weeks, months, or years). Senior patients tend to end up having chronic kidney disease. Chronic kidney failure is irreversible, and the only choice is palliative treatment and diet changes for the rest of their life.


Dr Shantanu suggests the following treatment for dogs with kidney failure:

- Treatment depends on the type and stage of kidney disease.

- Successful treatment includes the correction of electrolyte imbalance, fluid therapy, antibiotics, antiemetic and supportive therapy.

- Dialysis in chronic renal disease.


Dr Gandhi says considering kidney disease often progresses silently in dogs, it is advised to go for regular check-ups depending on the age of your dog.

"For the first 5 years of a dog, one should go for an annual check-up. Between 5 to 8 years, a bi-annual check-up is advised. 8 years and beyond, 3 or 4 blood works (in a year) must be done to know that the organ function is doing alright because now there is enough medication available which can help maintain good renal health or retard progress of renal condition. It is a combination of clinical treatment, some supplements and some diet changes," says Dr Gandhi.

Dr Gandhi says kidney problems in dogs are a silent killer and by the time a dog is diagnosed the normal value for renal function of creatinine is 1.4 on the outer side. People attribute it to various other things like cold, indigestion etc.

"Any symptom that is repetitive for few weeks should always be checked to help establish earlier diagnosis. The rule of the game that any animal capable of being a predator or kill, would hide symptoms, this is the law of the nature," says the vet.

Preventive care as per Dr Kalambi

● Routine health checks and blood tests are essential to diagnose the disease in the early-stage

● Vaccination against ;eptospirosis

● Be careful with what you are feeding- Avoid feeding Grapes/raisins, chocolates, and salt.

● Follow a nutritious diet according to the stage of life.

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