Symptoms of Canine Renal Failure (CRF)

Canine renal failure also known as CRF is a condition that is more frequent in senior dogs over the age of 7. However, the condition may occur in younger dogs as well. Certain breeds tend to have a higher incidence of CRF. The most common symptoms of canine renal failure include polydipsia or increased thirst and polyuria or increased frequency of urination. You must watch out for these symptoms, as CRF is a serious disease that can have fatal consequences.


Polydipsia or the increased frequency of water drinking may be a symptom of canine renal failure. The dog tries to flush out the waste materials that are present in the blood flow and which cannot be filtered by the dysfunctional kidneys.

However, this symptom may also point to diabetes, so other symptoms must also be found and a diagnosis is necessary to detect if the dog has kidney failure.


Polyuria or the increased frequency of urination is a sign of kidney failure but may also indicate other health problems such as diabetes.

If the dog has kidney failure, he will drink a lot of water and consequently, will urinate more.

Inappropriate urination may also be common when the dog has a kidney problem.

Other Common Symptoms

Besides the increased thirst and urination you may also watch out for the following common symptoms of dog kidney failure:

  • Lack of activity and exercise intolerance; the dog will get tired easily after just minutes of exercise
  • Lack of appetite followed by weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Oral cavity ulcers
  • Halitosis (bad breath), which may also indicate diabetes or dental problems
  • Pale gums
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Blindness, if the dog has a kidney problem in conjunction with hypertension or elevated blood pressure

These symptoms may indicate that the dog has a health problem and may also point to different health conditions, so a proper diagnosis is needed.

Diagnosing Kidney Failure

If one or several of the above mentioned symptoms are present in your dog, a checkup is necessary to determine if he has kidney failure. The vet will perform some blood tests which will show a high level of toxicity and the red cell count may also be reduced.

The dog will also get some ultrasounds and x-rays, which will show that the kidneys are smaller than usual. If the vet suspects a tumor, a kidney biopsy may also be performed.

Detecting canine kidney failure as early as possible can prevent the condition from aggravating. If the dog loses over 70% of his kidney function, the condition is considered chronic renal failure, which is progressive and irreversible.

The treatment of CRF will consist of a change in diet—wet food is recommended to ease the task of the kidneys; a low concentration of proteins and phosphorus and minerals is also recommended in the dog’s new diet. Special prescription food for dogs with kidney problems may be purchased from pet stores. Fluid therapy and other medications may also be prescribed to control the other possible symptoms such as nausea or hypertension.