How to Treat Kidney Disease in Dogs

By Joanna Ehlers

A diagnosis of chronic renal failure is a devastating diagnosis for dogs and their human companions. Characterized by decreased urination, urination at night or bloody urine as well as dehydration or vomiting, kidney disease also may cause anemia, high blood pressure and fluid retention in older dogs. Careful management of a dog's diet and body condition under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian may prolong his life for months or years.

Causes and Diagnosing Kidney Disease

Factors contributing to kidney failure include a dog's age, congenital or inherited disorders, infections due to viruses, fungus or bacteria, parasites or cancer. Many pet owners do not recognize the nonspecific onset of symptoms. Once symptoms are obvious, the kidneys are severely damaged, according to Pet MD. To diagnose kidney disease, the veterinarian will perform a series of tests on a single blood sample, called a chemistry panel. A urinalysis and complete blood panel test the consistency of the dog's urine and search for the presence of anemia, an indicator of kidney disease. X-rays or ultrasonography may be used to determine the size and shape of the kidneys.

Fluid Therapy

Dogs with kidney disease must always have access to fresh water and should be encouraged to drink as much as possible, according to Washington State University. Most of the fluid that the dog's body passes is water, as the kidneys have lost the ability to concentrate urine. To prevent dehydration, flavored broths that are low sodium can be added to the dog's drinking water to encourage him to drink. This may not be enough to sustain dogs with kidney failure. Many veterinarians prescribe subcutaneous fluid delivery with added potassium to protect the dog's heart and muscles. Intravenous fluids may be needed. Track your pet's fluid consumption daily and note decreases, as these may signal dehydration and a visit to the vet.

Changes in Diet

Your dog's veterinarian will recommend a diet that is high in quality but lower in protein, to place less stress on the kidneys. Canned food may be recommended. Any change in diet should be made slowly so that the dog continues to eat. Dog food can be warmed to increase palatability and offered several times a day in small amounts to reduce the risk of vomiting. If the dog vomits frequently after a meal, his veterinarian may prescribe anti-nausea medication such as cimetidine or chlorpromazine. Phosphorous binders and vitamin D supplements are often administered to keep the ratio of phosphorous to calcium in the blood normal, according to Pet MD.

Further Treatment and Monitoring

Hemodialysis is a costly treatment that owners may turn to when all other options have failed. Though some patients experience relief through hemodialysis, others may have no response, rendering the expensive treatment useless. Kidney transplants for dogs are available at some veterinary hospitals, according to Pet Education. If a dog is diagnosed with kidney failure, his veterinarian will need to be informed of any drugs he is taking, as these could stress his already worn kidneys. The vet also may prescribe anti-hypertensive medication to decrease the dog's blood pressure, and the drug erythropoietin to encourage red blood cell production. Dogs with kidney disease should have regular checkups at their veterinarian's office to ensure that their diet and medications are still effective.