Kidney disease (often called renal failure) is one of the most common ailments that we see in pets. It is common in both dogs and cats. As a responsible pet owner, it’s important that you know what symptoms to look for that can indicate a problem. Also, I will go over some possible ways to prevent this dangerous disease so that we can keep your pet as healthy and happy as possible!
The kidneys are very important organs. You may already know that the kidneys are responsible for making urine. As part of this process, they are responsible for filtering out many toxins and byproducts from the body. When the kidneys are not functioning properly, dangerous levels of toxins may build up in the bloodstream. The kidneys also are responsible for regulating the amount of water in the body; when they start to fail, severe dehydration can result.
At this point, you are probably wondering how you would know if your pet has developed a kidney problem. Most of the symptoms are related to the buildup of toxins and byproducts in the bloodstream. Your pet may start to vomit, stop eating, or just seem to not quite be himself or herself. Since the body is also unable to regulate water levels, many people notice their pet is drinking a lot of water and urinating a lot more than normal.
Since there are many diseases that can mimic these symptoms, your vet will want to rule out other diseases that can look similar, including diabetes, thyroid problems, and other conditions. Your vet will run a blood panel and analyze a urine sample. If kidney disease is confirmed, hospitalization may be required. At the hospital, he or she would receive large amounts of fluids to “flush” their body of any toxins that built up and to rehydrate the body. After coming home, a special diet will be required to minimize further kidney damage. In more severe cases, your vet may even show you how to give your pet extra fluids at home to prevent future dehydration.
Of course, as a veterinarian I would always rather prevent a pet from getting ill in the first place. There are many reasons that a pet may develop kidney disease, and any potential causes of kidney disease should be avoided. For example, many people are unaware that grapes and raisins are toxic to the kidneys of both dogs and cats. Also, most varieties of lilies are also toxic to the kidneys of cats and so these should never be used as decorations in cat-owning households. Pets should not be allowed to drink from wild sources of water, as it’s possible to pick up an organism called leptospirosis which may cause kidney failure. Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) also can be a danger, as it tastes sweet and causes severe toxicities. Unfortunately, the most common cause of kidney failure is degeneration; the kidneys simply wear down as the pet ages. It is always advisable to do a blood panel and urinalysis at least once a year on your senior animals to monitor the function of the kidneys and other organs. With many diseases, early intervention can be very helpful to make your pet much more comfortable and increase his or her lifespan.
Please contact your veterinarian if you are concerned about kidney disease in your animal, or have further questions about the information in this article. They will help you come up with the best plan to maximize your pet’s health.