Why did my dog's kidneys fail? Kidney failure, also known as renal failure or kidney insufficiency, refers to the deterioration of the two bean-shaped organs commonly known as kidneys. The kidneys in dogs play the same main filtering function as in humans. They filter the blood and purify it by removing unnecessary products, that we will call waste. This waste is then disposed of and secreted in the urine. When the kidneys do not work as they should though, this can lead to a cascading chain of events.
Risks for Uremic Poisoning
When the kidneys fail, a variety of problems start to develop as the waste is not successfully removed causing a build- up of toxins. This build-up of poisons is also known as uremic poisoning. The symptoms deriving from uremic poisoning are the key signs that will allow an attentive owner to detect renal failure in their dog.
However, the sad part is that most symptoms show up once most of the damage to the kidneys has been done. It may be helpful though finding out in the first place why kidneys fail to obtain a better understanding of this condition and preventing it from happening over all.
Confirmation of uremic poisoning and its associated effects on the kidneys causing them to shut down can be confirmed by checking the dog's kidney values at the vet through a blood test that checks the dog's BUN, creatinine and phosphorus levels.
Why Dog Kidneys Fail
Kidneys may fail for various reasons. There is acute kidney failure which can sometimes be reversed, and chronic kidney failure. A common culprit for acute renal failure can be the ingestion of antifreeze which contains ethylene glycol. We see this a lot in the winter months, when the dogs are let out and they find a few drops under the car. These drops are tasty for dogs as they have an attractive sweet flavor. Another toxin known to cause liver failure is ingestion of easter lily plants.
Other causes seem to be conditions where the kidneys do not receive a sufficient amount of blood flow. This can occur when a dog is severely dehydrated, suffering from congestive heart failure, suffering from complications associated with anesthesia or chronic use of specific medication such as NSAIDS, Non Steroidal Anti- Inflammatory Drugs. Injections of aminoglycosides antibiotics can also be a trigger considering that they can cause damage to the kidney tubules.
Of course, damage to the kidneys or nearby organs are other culprits as seen when dogs suffer from urinary stones, a ruptured bladder or a bacterial infection of the kidneys. At times, bacteria can cause kidney failure in dogs as seen in dogs suffering from lyme disease or leptospirosis.
Finally, kidneys may fail due to old age. With dogs living longer lives, the kidneys simply naturally "wear out" and start deteriorating. There's no cure for old age, and all that can be done is slow down the progression.
Signs of Kidney Failure
Unfortunately symptoms suggestive of dog kidney failure arise usually when about 75 percent of kidney function is already lost. The most common symptoms are as follows: increased drinking (polydypsia) and increased urination (polyuria).
Both of these symptoms are due to the body's effort to try to flush out the toxins since the kidneys are no longer able to concentrate the urine and discard the waste. Affected dogs may suddenly have accidents in the house and may not be able to keep the urine overnight.
On top of increased drinking and increased urination, dogs affected by kidney failure may show other signs such as lethargy, loss of appetite, rough coat, ammonia breath odor, tongue with brown discoloration, mouth ulcers, decreased urination, straining to urinate, vomiting, diarrhea, ascites, coma and death.
These symptoms occur when excess waste accumulates in blood and tissues. Common toxins accumulated are as follows: acids, nitrogen and ammonia. This is why a dog with renal failure presents a typical ammonia breath odor.
Prognosis for Kidney Failure
Even though a dog with renal failure very likely exhibits symptoms when a good part of damage has been done, owners still play a vital role in early detection. The prognosis of a dog affected by renal failure is based upon the level of kidney damage, identification of the underlying cause, and application of supportive treatment such as the use of subcutaneous or IV fluid which can help flush metabolic waste products out.
Because this condition is very debilitating and can also be life threatening, it is best if the owner would focus primarily on preventing renal failure from happening in the first place, rather than detecting the signs and symptoms later on.