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Old Dog Kidney Failure Life Expectancy

Dog Kidney Failure

If you own a senior dog with renal problems, you may be wondering about old dog kidney failure life expectancy. As in humans, in old dogs, organ failure is a main cause of death; however, a diagnosis of kidney failure doesn't translate into an immediate death sentence. When kidney failure in dogs is recognized early enough, there are several options for dog owners to slow down the progression of the disease. Often, this may translate in a lifespan of many more months, and at times, even years. Medications, diet and fluid therapy can help increase the lifespan of old dogs with kidney failure.

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Kidney Failure in Old Dogs 

Old dogs are prone to develop chronic kidney failure as their kidneys take a toll after relentlessly working for many years. The main purpose of a dog's kidneys is to filter the dog's blood, removing metabolic waste products from the blood and dumping these toxins out of the dog's body through the dog's urine.

When a dog's kidneys start not working well as they should, toxins start accumulating and the initial reaction of the dog's body is to cause increased drinking and increased urination, medically known as "polydypsia" and "polyuria." The purpose of this increase in thirst and urination is an attempt of the dog's body to flush the bloodstream from the excess toxins.

As the condition progresses and the toxins build up more and more, affected dogs may start developing other symptoms. These symptoms include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, ulcers in the dog's mouth  and bad breath.

Old dogs are diagnosed with kidney failure through urine testing and blood work. In dogs with kidney failure, their urine is not concentrated as it should be, therefore a low urine specific gravity and increased protein in the urine can be some early signs of trouble.

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Blood work will show abnormal levels of blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and blood creatinine (CREA) and may also show abnormalities in the levels of potassium, phosphorus and calcium values.

Did you know? The age of onset of dog chronic kidney failure varies depending on the dog's size. Since small dogs tend to live longer, you may only start seeing signs when your small dog is anywhere between 10 to 14 years of age, while in large dogs, kidney failure may pop up as early as seven years of age.


A Look at Functionality

Stages of kidney failure in dogs

Picture of dog kidney

The life expectancy in old dogs with kidney failure depends on a variety of factors. The most important factor is perhaps how much kidney functionality has been lost. To help determine a dog's lifespan often vets divide kidney failure in different stages. These dog kidney failure stages can be determined by looking at the dog's urine specific gravity and blood work.

Another way to assess the situation is through an ultrasound. The ultrasound should be able to indicate whether the kidneys are in the "end-stage" failure and whether there are any tumors.

Additionally, checking the dog's blood pressure can be insightful. About 25 percent of dogs with kidney failure have hypertension. Getting the high blood pressure under control can ultimately help improve prognosis.

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Slowing Things Down

Unfortunately, kidney tissue is unable to regenerate once it is destroyed when it comes to chronic kidney failure, but the good news is that a dog's kidneys are still capable of performing various functions even when they start failing. According to veterinarian Dr. Ernest Ward, at least 2/3 of the dog's kidneys must have become dysfunctional before any advanced symptoms of kidney failure are noticed.

As mentioned, when caught early, the progression of kidney failure in old dogs can be slowed down. So increased drinking and increased urination (particularly in a senor dog!) should be a red flag and reported to the vet immediately. Following are some ways to slow down the progression of kidney failure in dogs.

Fluids, Fluids, Fluids 

One of the best ways to help the dog's failing kidney is to start diuresis. Diuresis consists of giving dogs intravenous fluids in order to flush out the accumulated toxins from the bloodstream. In some advanced cases, it may be needed to schedule three days of intravenous diuresis from a hospital setting and see how the dog does by checking the blood work afterward.

Fluids can then be given under the skin at home (subcutaneously) after the vet does a demo and the owner purchases some supplies.

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Medications as Needed

Along with diuresis, dogs are then prescribed medications. A phosphate binder (like aluminum hydroxide, Alternagel, Amphogel, epakitin ) is often needed considering that old dogs with kidney failure may not be able to get rid of phosphorous. The binder drugs will absorb the phosphorous so that it doesn't end in the dog's bloodstream.

Other medications include anti-nausea medications such as like famotidine or ranitidine, oral blood pressure medications if there is hypertension, potassium supplements if the potassium is low and supplements such as Azodyl.

Special Kidney Diets 

Affected dogs are often put on a prescription diet. Most kidney prescription diets in general have quality protein and are low in phosphorus and low in sodium so to lower the production of metabolic toxins and diminish the workload on the kidneys. The addition of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) to diets has also been considered beneficial. Common kidney diets for dogs include Hill's K/D, Purina NF and Royal Canin Renal Support.

"The kidneys generally use a small percentage of their capacity at any point in time. There is a lot of reserve function. Because of this reserve, clinical evidence of renal failure does not become apparent until about 80% of the functional units are lost."~Dr. Lenny, veterinarian

Dog Kidney Failure Life Expectancy

The life expectancy in an old dog with chronic kidney failure is quite variable as it depends on several factors. How early the disease is diagnosed, the over all condition of the kidneys and how the dog responds to fluid therapy, medication and dietary changes are several factors.

The life expectancy of an old dog with kidney failure is therefore somewhat unpredictable. Some dog may remain stable for several years with treatment, while some other may decline quite rapidly. Most dogs though do seem to do quite well, and it may take 1 to 2 years before the dog's kidneys are no longer functioning, explains veterinarian Dr. Susan. 

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  • VCA Animal Hospital: Kidney Failure - Chronic in Dogs

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