Signs of Organ Failure in Dogs

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Family talking to vet about their dog.
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While signs of organ failure in dogs vary according to the affected organ, but any type of organ failure is life-threatening. A pet with organ failure will obviously be a very sick pet. With prompt treatment, your vet might be able to save your dog. If so, your dog will likely require some sort of special management, whether pharmaceutical or dietary, for the rest of his life.


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Triggering Conditions

Certain diseases can trigger organ failure. If your dog has been diagnosed with pancreatitis, pneumonia, immune mediated hemolytic anemia, leptospirosis, osteomyelitis, peritonitis or parvovirus, your vet will monitor your pet for signs of organ failure. Severe trauma can cause organ failure -- if your dog has suffered injuries or wounds, shock, burns or rattlesnake bites, organ failure is possible. Organ failure requires aggressive treatment, including intravenous fluid therapy and ventilation.


Liver Failure

Liver failure symptoms include appetite and weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration -- symptoms that occur with many illnesses -- and jaundice, a yellowing of the eye whites and gums. Stomach ulceration often occurs in liver disease, so a dog might throw up blood and his feces might turn dark. Fluid accumulation in the abdomen is common. Some dogs experience neurological changes and seizures. Treatment consists of various drug therapies, including antibiotics, glucocorticoids and intravenous fluids. A dog might require a feeding tube if he won't eat on his own.


Kidney Failure

Acute kidney failure typically occurs if a dog ingests poison or has a bad reaction to certain medications. It can also occur if the kidneys don't receive adequate blood or oxygen. Symptoms include balance loss, vomiting, depression and appetite loss. These symptoms are quite obvious. Chronic kidney failure usually occurs in older dogs, with more subtle signs. These include increased drinking and urination, a chemical smell to the breath, appetite and weight loss, and blood in the urine. Treatment includes intravenous fluid therapy, dietary changes and possibly dialysis. Your vet will treat acute kidney failure depending on the cause -- specific toxins require specific treatment.


Heart Failure

If the left side of your dog's heart is failing, he'll generally experience coughing because of fluid buildup in the lungs. Low blood pressure will make him prone to fainting. If the right side is primarily affected, fluid buildup, or edema, will occur in his legs, chest and abdomen. Your vet can prescribe medication to treat the symptoms after diagnosing your pet. For edema, she'll probably prescribe diuretics to get rid of fluid. Vasodilators or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors make blood vessels wider. Your vet might switch your dog to a low-sodium diet.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.