Dog Kidney Failure: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and What to Expect

dog kidney failure

The kidney is a vital organ in the dog’s body. Problems in kidney functioning could lead to catastrophic consequences for a dog. Also, if the kidney failure in a dog is detected early, then the chances of the survival of the dog increase significantly. That is why understanding dog kidney failure and knowing its causes, symptoms, and preventive measures will help a pet lover to ensure the safety of his or her canine friend’s kidneys. 

The Role of the Kidney in a Dog’s Body

The kidney of a dog is located near the backside of the dog around the mid-abdomen area. The position of a dog’s kidney is quite identical to a human being’s. The kidney is a vital part of a large blood vessel network. It creates an essential connection between the blood vessels and other organs. The functions of the kidney can be a complicated thing to understand. First of all, kidneys have the duty of maintaining the pH and electrolyte levels of the dog’s body. It also filters the waste from the blood and, by doing so, creates urine to excrete those wastes.

Furthermore, several hormones and enzymes are produced in the kidney to help the body function well. The kidney and heart work in unison to keep the body functioning. Dogs can survive on one kidney just like humans, but they cannot survive without kidneys. 

Stages of Kidney Failure in Dogs

When it comes to the dog kidney failure stages, primarily, there are two. One is acute kidney failure, and the other is chronic kidney disease. Let’s understand what these two are;

Acute Kidney Failure

When a healthy dog suddenly falls ill due to the failure in kidney functioning, at that very time, you can refer to it as acute kidney failure. As you can guess by the terminology, this condition occurs within a few days and will make a dog look very sick. The main cause of this problem is the overexposure to toxins such as poisonous plants, rat poison, and many others. Kidney infections can be another vital cause of acute kidney failure.

Furthermore, it can happen because of the conditions that create a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the kidney. 

Now, a big question on your mind will be, can a dog recover from acute kidney failure? Unfortunately, most of the dogs that are suffering from acute kidney failure may not survive longer than some days. The recovery from this disease will depend on how fast the condition has been detected. Your veterinarian will give supportive medicines and IVF therapy to treat the condition after determining the actual cause of kidney failure. 

Chronic Kidney Disease

In chronic kidney disease, the condition of the kidneys of a dog will deteriorate due to the aging problem. The kidney fails to work properly due to chronic kidney disease. This problem is most visible in dogs that are aging and will happen gradually with age. The condition of the kidney will go from bad to worse with time, ultimately resulting in the death of the dog. The chronic kidney disease of dogs has no cure. Certain treatment measures are there to improve the dog’s living quality, prolonging the survival time and the inevitable for some years by managing the disease. 

Symptoms of Dog Kidney Failure

The signs and symptoms of both acute and chronic kidney problems are very much identical. The only major difference in the symptoms is the acute kidney failure happens within a rapid time. But, in the case of chronic kidney disease, the dog kidney failure symptoms shaking and other symptoms will appear gradually within a certain period. Here are some of the signs and symptoms you will get if your dog is facing kidney problems:

  • Consuming water frequently
  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling lazy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

As the kidney disease of the dog is progressing, the toxin level in the blood will also go up resulting in the following symptoms;

  • Blood during urination
  • Dehydration
  • Anemia
  • Lower output of urine
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Gastric ulcers

Remember, the signs and symptoms will worsen within a very quick time. But, for chronic kidney disease, it will take many months and years for the symptoms to worsen. 

Dog Kidney Failure Diagnosis

You have to understand that the symptoms of chronic kidney disease will take time to appear. However, the disease may not become evident unless it has reached a certain point. Because of this, you need to take extensive care of the dog by taking it to the veterinarian regularly for the checkup. With routine checkups, the veterinary doctor will be able to identify the changes happening in your pet, and by doing so, will be able to diagnose the dog better. With regular lab tests, the condition could get detected even before you can find any symptom in your dog. 

In case you have found any signs or symptoms for kidney problems in your dog, you need to take the dog to a veterinary doctor right away as it will improve even the dog kidney failure life expectancy. The diagnosis will start with your veterinarian performing physical checkups on your dog and afterward, recommending certain lab tests which are mentioned in the below table;

Complete Blood Count

Blood Chemistry Panel

Blood Electrolytes


In this test, the evaluation of the white blood cells and the red blood cells will happen. Conditions such as infections, anemia, and other problems will be detected.

This test will indicate how the organs of the dog’s body are functioning by checking various components such as nitrogen and others.

Keeping the electrolytes balanced is an important job of the kidney and this test will determine whether the kidney is fulfilling that role properly or not.

In this test, the veterinary doctor will check for urinal infections as well as which components are leaving the body while urinating.

The result of these tests will indicate the doctor whether more test is required for the proper diagnosis such as ultrasound or x-rays. However, these tests will give your doctor ample scope to diagnose your dog with the possible kidney disease. 

Treatment of Kidney Failure in Dogs

Once the veterinarian doctor determines the condition of your dog’s health, the doctor will create a treatment plan. However, the treatment will not be the same all the time, and it will depend on the condition of your dog. Also, what treatment is given to your dog will depend on whether the dog is suffering from acute or chronic kidney problems. Some of the treatment measures the doctor might take are;

  • Medications to improve urine creation
  • IVF therapy
  • Blood electrolyte management
  • Monitoring the output of urine
  • Prevent vomiting
  • Dialysis (rare)
  • Anemia treatment
  • Checking the diet
  • High blood pressure management

What to Expect from a Dog with Kidney Failure

As you already know, there is no cure for acute kidney problems even if your veterinarian gives the best of efforts. So, you should talk to the doctor about the results you should expect from the treatment so that you can prepare yourself mentally for the outcome. An honest canine kidney failure prognosis will help you prepare yourself even if your dog does not respond to the treatment. 

A dog with chronic kidney disease can live for many years if proper treatment and care are taken. However, some dogs may survive for some months, even after receiving the best of the treatments. You need to have good communication with your veterinarian doctor to report any changes of symptoms in your dog’s condition. 

You have to be realistic because most of the dogs will not respond to the treatment after a certain time. In the last days of a dog with kidney failure, the dog will become very, very sick. Many dog owners may opt for euthanasia to stop the suffering of their beloved friend. 

How to Take Care of the Dog to Avoid Kidney Problems

Keep an Eye on Your Pet’s Diet

It is essential to know what your dog is eating because the functioning of your dog’s kidney will depend on the eating habit of your dog. So, knowing the dog kidney failure diet can help you in taking care of your dog. 

Brushing of the Teeth

Dental problems could result in chronic kidney problems as well. Therefore, keeping oral health in good condition is an important step for better kidney functioning. 

Keep Hazardous Things Away from the Dog

Your dog does not know which item is harmful and which item is not. So, keeping various hazardous items that have toxic elements away from your dog will help you to prevent kidney problems in your dog. 

The Bottom Line

If you want your dog to have a healthy life, then regular health checkup is very important. It will also help you to keep your dog’s kidneys in the right condition. Also, in case you find any symptoms of kidney problems in your dog, you should not wait to consult a veterinarian because prompt action will increase the survival span of your dog.