How the Last Stages of Kidney Failure Affect Dogs

Your dog is a family member and a beloved friend. You've done your best to keep your dog healthy all her life, but a diagnosis of kidney failure can be devastating. Hopefully, your dog will remain in the early stages of kidney failure for years so you can enjoy more time with her. Understanding the dog kidney failure stages can better prepare you for what is to come and can even be a reassurance during this difficult time.

Sick puppy
How the Last Stages of Kidney Failure Affect Dogs
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Understanding kidney failure

According to Adamson Veterinary Services, your dog's kidneys fulfill many functions. The kidneys produce multiple hormones that help to regulate heart rate, blood pressure, thirst, hydration, red blood cell production, and more. They also filter out waste that results from the body's metabolism, eliminating excess waste through your dog's urine. When your dog's kidneys become incapable of efficiently filtering out this waste, the dog is said to be in kidney failure. The waste products start to build up in your dog's body, resulting in a number of symptoms and eventually death.

The dog kidney failure stages

Newport Harbor Animal Hospital explains that kidney failure will only display clinical signs once at least two-thirds of the kidneys are dysfunctional. Because of this, it's likely that a dog's kidneys have been functioning incorrectly for months or even years before you can recognize the first stages of kidney failure.

Early stage kidney failure is often characterized by increased drinking and urination. A vet may perform a complete urinalysis and a blood biochemistry analysis to officially diagnose the dog as having kidney failure. If a dog has early stage kidney disease, a vet may flush out her kidneys to remove the toxins. With aggressive treatment, the dog may stay in this early stage of the disease for months or even years.

In some cases, though, a dog's kidney function may not return. There is no way to determine how long a dog will stay in the early stages of kidney failure before moving into the late stages.

Symptoms of kidney failure

According to Adamson Veterinary Services, in addition to increased thirst and urination, a dog may demonstrate symptoms including lethargy, loss of appetite, and a poor coat quality or a ragged coat.

As the disease progresses and the dog enters the later stages of kidney disease, symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and dehydration. Even though dogs may drink lots of water, they become unable to keep up with the amount of water that they lose through their increased urination.

When the wastes build up in your dog's body, he may start to experience difficulty breathing. In severe cases, dogs can become anemic because the kidneys lose their ability to contribute to the production of red blood cells.

The end stages

In the final stages of canine kidney failure, your dog's body is gradually filling up with toxins. You may gradually start to see signs a dog is dying from kidney failure, or you may suddenly notice a difference in your dog's energy and overall well being.

There are a number of ways that you can help to slow the progression of your dog's kidney disease, from putting him on an appropriate diet to giving him medications to prevent vomiting and diarrhea. Adamson Veterinary Services notes that your vet may administer IV fluids to help treat your dog's dehydration and may recommend you supplement electrolytes to help maintain your dog's kidney function.

It's important to work closely with your vet to monitor your dog once he is diagnosed with kidney failure. Your vet can help you to monitor your dog's health and can advise you when you may need to make some decisions regarding your dog's quality of life.