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Managing Kidney Disease & Chronic Renal Failure in Dogs – Providing Proper Diet and Care

Six months ago, our sweet Abby nearly lost her life after literally eating part of a rubber hamburger toy including its squeaker. The squeaker lodged in her small intestines and she underwent two surgeries and edema complications and still prevailed. She showed us her bright spirit and fought to continue her journey with us. Recently, during a routine dental cleaning and mole removal, she was diagnosed with Kidney Disease. It is irreversible and degenerative, but with the proper care and diet, her life should not be negatively impacted. If you are experiencing a similar situation with your pet, do not fear the worst. Keep reading and follow the below links for diet and care information. It is a disease that can be managed and should not be viewed as a death sentence.

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Click here for an informative PDF with diet recommendations. We are trying out Science Diet Canine Renal Health, specially formulated to support kidney health.  You can purchase at a discounted rate at Pet Food Direct. While it is not as flavorful as other foods, we find that adding a fish oil capsule makes it more enticing. We slice the capsule and pour the oil directly on her food for an added bonus. And fish oil is one of the most important supplements you can add to a pet’s diet who has Kidney Disease. Please consult your pet’s vet before making any changes to their diet or lifestyle.

Kidney Failure (Long-Term) in Dogs
Source: www.petmd.com

Nine in every 1,000 dogs that are examined suffer from chronic renal disease. And while dogs of any age can be diagnosed with the kidney disease, it is more commonly seen in older dogs.

Failure of the kidney — which among other things regulates blood pressure, blood sugar, blood volume, water composition in the blood, and pH levels, and produces red blood cells and certain hormones — can take so place so slowly, that by the time the symptoms have become obvious, it may be too late to treat the condition effectively. Often, the kidney will find ways to compensate as it loses functionality over the course of months, or even years.

While chronic renal failure cannot be reversed or cured, treatment and management aimed at reducing the contributing factors and symptoms can slow its progression.

Chronic renal failure can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms and Types
Symptoms often occur gradually over an extended period of time. In addition, symptoms may vary and not all of those listed below will be seen in every dog:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Increased thirst
  • Lack of appetite
  • Acute blindness
  • Seizures and comas
  • Blood in the urine
  • An increase in the frequency and amount of urination

Your dog will undergo a complete blood profile, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. Dogs with chronic renal failure may have anemia, abnormal electrolyte levels, and elevated blood pressure. The levels of certain protein enzymes and chemicals such as creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) will also be high.

Another good indicator of chronic renal failure is urine that is neither concentrated or dilute, thus indicating the kidney’s inability to process the urine correctly. X-ray or ultrasound imaging may also be used to observe the size and shape of the dog’s kidney(s) to see if there are any visibly noticeable abnormalities. Often, chronic renal failure causes kidneys to become abnormally small.

Dogs suffering from long-term kidney failure will often undergo fluid therapy to assist with depleted body fluid levels (dehydration). Dietary protein is sometimes restricted, since it can further compound the problem.

Although there is no cure for chronic renal failure, there are numerous steps that can be taken to minimize the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. For instance, feeding your dog a specially formulated kidney diet, or other diet low in protein, phosphorus, calcium, and sodium, is usually very helpful. These specially formulated foods will usually have a higher level of potassium and polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids), both have shown to be beneficial to the kidneys. The downside is that these foods are not flavorful.

If your dog is resistant to its new diet, small amounts of tuna juice, chicken stock, or other flavor enhancers can be used with guidance from your veterinarian.

Maintaining hydration is critical. You will need to ensure your dog always has an adequate amount of clean water to drink. If your dog has been diagnosed with dehydration, supplemental fluids may be given intravenously or under the skin (subcutaneously).

Phosphorus binders and vitamin D supplements are often given to dogs with chronic renal failure in an attempt to improve calcium and phosphorus balance, and to reduce some of the secondary effects of renal failure. H-2 receptor blockers, or other medications to treat the secondary gastric ulcers and gastritis that develops, can be helpful in increasing a dog’s appetite. Depending on the symptoms and conditions, other medications that may be considered include:

  • Anti-hypertensives to decrease blood pressure
  • Enalapril to block angiotensin, a natural blood pressure elevator
  • Erythropoietin to stimulate the production of red blood cells, thus increasing oxygen in the tissues

Living and Management
Chronic renal failure is a progressive disease. Dogs experiencing this disease should be monitored on an ongoing basis, with frequent check-ups to ensure that it is not necessary to make changes to medications or diet.

Your dog’s prognosis will depend on the severity of the disease and its stages of progression, but a few months, or a few years of stability may be expected, with the proper treatment. The best way to manage this disease is to follow through with the treatments your veterinarian prescribes.

Pet owners are advised not to breed dogs that have developed chronic kidney disease

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  • Ashley @ recycled rover - I am saddened to hear about Abby’s struggles. I have had dogs that suffer from renal failures. The most important thing to find is a kidney diet, but PETMD assumes owners only feed crappy kibble and prescription foods loaded with junk. “For instance, feeding your dog a specially formulated kidney diet, or other diet low in protein, phosphorus, calcium, and sodium, is usually very helpful. These specially formulated foods will usually have a higher level of potassium and polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids), both have shown to be beneficial to the kidneys. The downside is that these foods are not flavorful.”
    This could not be more wrong if you’re feeding real foods, not rendered, processed “diet” full of sawdust and artificial flavors. Work with a vet who knows their diet and get a high-quality protein that is easy on the kidneys (fish based diets come to mind). Dr. Dodds and Dr. Becker both have much to say on diet and their works can really give direction to managing this chronic condition. There are choices outside of prescribed diets. You just have to do some homework.ReplyCancel

  • Mandy - Thank you for all this information. It was very informative and helpful!ReplyCancel

  • Alice - This is very big help. Thanks for sharing this. Increase of urination rate must go with increase of frequency of thirsting I guess. Tremendous content though.ReplyCancel

  • kidney stones - Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

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