Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs

Kidney failure in dogs (renal failure) can occur suddenly (acute kidney failure) or over a longer period of time with the dog not tolerating it for a while until the symptoms start to appear (chronic kidney failure). Older dogs are more prone to acute kidney failure.

The kidneys are vital organs. They are responsible for filtering of blood, regulating calcium and production of red cells and keeping the fluid balance of the body.  Acute renal failure can prove terminal even under intense treatment.

Symptoms of Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs

The symptoms of kidney failure are not very specific and may include:

  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite; the dog does not eat for more than one day
  • Loss of coordination; the dog is disoriented
  • Significant changes in water consumption
  • More frequent urination or less frequent urination
  • Difficulties when urinating
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Bad breath

Causes of Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs

Acute kidney failure can occur in dogs for several causes.  The most common causes are:

  • Poisoning. Acute kidney failure in dogs occurs more often in winter because of antifreeze liquid may be ingested by the dog. Ethylene glycol, the active component of antifreeze is the most common cause of acute kidney failure in dogs. Other substances that can prove fatal to kidneys include antibiotics, a toxin eliminated by the Easter Lily, anti heartworm and antifungal medication, anesthetics and a very high concentration of calcium in the blood.
  • Insufficient blood flow to the kidneys due to injury, dehydration, poor heart function, anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, sepsis (generalized infection).
  • Obstruction of the urinary tract; this is the least severe case of acute kidney failure as, once the obstruction is removed in time, the condition can be reversed.

Treatment of Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs

The treatment of acute kidney failure depends on what your veterinarian finds during diagnosis.

If toxins are the cause of the kidneys failing, inducing vomiting might be the first step. This is an emergency procedure that can insure the dog's survival. 

Fluid therapy through intravenous drip lines is a treatment of choice for kidney failure. Proper hydration will help restore normal blood flow and help flush out the toxins. However, over hydration can be dangerous as well, causing fluid to accumulate in the lungs.

Fluid therapy can sometimes help but, if the dog has ingested too much of the poisonous substance or the substance has been in his body for a long time before the owner taking measures, the kidney failure will be fatal.

After hydrating the dog the veterinarian will probably administer diuretics such as furosemide or mannitol, maybe combined with dopamine, which causes the renal arteries to enlarge and increases filtration in the kidneys.

If the kidney failure is caused by low blood pressure, intravenous drips will still be the first measure to be taken while the underlying cause is being taken care of.

If the kidney failure is cause by infection, intravenous fluids will be accompanied by antibiotics.