Kidney Infection Symptoms in Dogs

By M.B. Lachlei

Dogs, like people, can suffer from kidney infections. It's important to know the symptoms of kidney problems and to take your dog to the vet as soon as you recognize them. If left untreated, a kidney infection or other kidney problems could result in renal failure, or even death.

Causes of Kidney Problems

Dogs can suffer kidney problems from a number of different causes including bacterial infections, poisonous substances, urinary obstruction and a reduction in oxygen to the kidneys. In many cases, kidney problems can because of old age.

When it comes to infections, dogs can suffer infections due to bacteria either from the bladder or urinary tract, due to infectious diseases such as leptospirosis or internal parasites. These can make your dog very sick, or even kill him.

Symptoms of Kidney Infection

Signs of kidney infection can include an increase in drinking water, an increase in needing to urinate, blood in urine, vomiting, weight loss, decreased appetite, a hunched-over posture, lethargy, a decrease in urination, mouth ulcers, discolored urine, trouble urinating, fever and foul-smelling urine. Because many of the symptoms may appear in other diseases, it's important to have a veterinarian determine what is wrong with your dog should he show any of these signs.

Bacterial Cystitis

Bacterial infections caused by an infection in the bladder are called bacterial cystitis. Your vet will need a urine sample to diagnose if your dog has bacterial cystitis. Depending on how difficult it is to treat the infection, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics for two weeks or more. Your dog's urine may have to be tested several times to determine if the antibiotics have cured the infection or if the infection has recurred. Bacterial infections may be a sign of another underlying problem, such as tumors, cysts or urinary stones.

Kidney Infections

Kidney infections or pyelonephritis is another type of infection your dog may suffer. This infection is the same infection as bacterial cystitis, only the infection has reached the kidneys. This infection often shows up in very young dogs because of birth defects, in very old dogs and those dogs who have compromised immune systems. Although this type of kidney infection can display the same symptoms as bacterial cystitis, often dogs who have this disease for a long time will show little symptoms until the kidney fails.

Your veterinarian may put your dog on antibiotics for one to two months. If your dog is really sick, your dog may be hospitalized and given IV fluids as well as injections of antibiotics. In extreme cases, the infected kidney is removed.

Infectous Diseases

Infectious diseases, most notably leptospirosis, can cause your dog's kidneys to become inflamed. The condition is called interstitial nephritis. Your dog can contract leptospirosis from drinking contaminated water or through contact with the bacteria through a scrape in the skin. Leptospirosis carriers include rats, raccoons, skunks, pigs, possums and cattle. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, muscle pain, bloody urine, lethargy, fever and lack of appetite. Because leptospirosis attacks the kidneys and the liver, your dog may suffer from jaundice.

Your veterinarian will need to treat your dog with antibiotics as well as treat the symptoms that arise from the disease. People can contract leptospirosis from their pets, although this is rare. Still, if your dog has a kidney infection due to leptospirosis, it's important for you to contact your doctor.

Internal Parasites

Another type of kidney infection your dog may contract is due to internal parasites. Two worms may infect your dog's kidneys: Capillaria plica and Dioctophyma renale, also called giant kidney worms. Both of these worms are uncommon in pet dogs. Dogs can contract Capillaria plica from eating earthworms; giant kidney worms can infect your dog through the consumption of earthworms, infected frogs or infected raw fish. While Capillaria plica show few symptoms, the giant kidney worm often causes abdominal pain, pain around the kidneys, bloody urine, frequent urination and weight loss. It can progress to kidney failure.

Capillaria plica usually can be treated by your veterinarian with deworming medications. If infected with a giant kidney worm, your dog may need surgery to remove the infected kidney.