Acute and Chronic Canine Kidney Disease Explained

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Acute canine kidney disease is the sudden interruption of kidney function without time for adaptive mechanisms to begin. There can be many causes for acute kidney disease including toxic ingestion of food or chemicals (ingestion of antifreeze is a common one), dehydration, obstructions of the urinary tract from dog bladder stones or tumors, canine bladder infection, and by conditions or injuries that result in diminished blood flow to the kidney.

Symptoms of Acute Canine Kidney Disease

Symptoms of Acute Canine Kidney disease include:

  • lack of appetite
  • vomiting
  • diminished urine elimination
  • depression
  • dehydration
  • mouth ulcers
  • diarrhea
  • evidence of pain when the kidneys are palpated.

Treatment of Acute Canine Kidney Disease

Treatment of acute kidney disease in dogs includes administering fluids under the skin or by IV, diuretics to enhance urine output, medications to enhance blood flow to the kidneys and to control blood pressure, control of vomiting and diarrhea, and proper nutrition with high fat, high carbohydrate, and decreased protein diet. With these treatments, kidney function may be regained, but the extent of recovery depends upon whether residual kidney damage is present.

Chronic Canine Kidney Disease

Chronic canine kidney disease differs from the acute form in that the loss of kidney function happens over weeks to months rather than suddenly. With the chronic form of the disease, the kidneys will try to compensate for the damage to the functional cells of the kidney, called nephrons, by enlarging the remaining undamaged nephrons. This process continues until no more compensation is possible and complete renal failure is present.

Causes of canine chronic kidney disease include: malformations of the kidneys, long-standing infections of the kidneys, loss of blood flow to the kidneys from vascular disease, damage to the kidneys from immune mediated diseases, and progression of acute kidney disease.

Symptoms of Chronic Canine Kidney Disease

Symptoms of chronic renal disease may not be present until renal disease is quite severe. This is due in part to the gradual nature of the disease and also to the compensatory mechanisms of the kidneys. Once symptoms are present, they are very similar to those of acute renal disease.

Treatment of chronic canine kidney disease is aimed at controlling the symptoms of the disease and slowing the progression of the illness. Measures to control the disease include:

  • free access to water
  • avoiding changes in environment or medications that lead to additional renal stress
  • instituting measures to avoid dehydration
  • monitoring of dietary protein intake
  • restriction of phosphorus to prevent bone disease
  • blood pressure control
  • addition of water soluble vitamins to the diet
  • maintaining a normal blood acidity
  • correction of anemia.

Prognosis of Canine Chronic Kidney Disease

The prognosis for chronic canine kidney disease is poor. There is no cure for the disease; dialysis can be used as a treatment method, but is labor intensive and carries unique side effects such as infection. Once symptoms become unmanageable, death usually ensues or euthanasia becomes a consideration.


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