Signs of Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs

Healthy kidneys perform a range of essential functions, dogs with acute kidney failure experience a sudden and rapid decline in kidney function that requires urgent medical care. Here our Huntersville and Mecklenburg County vets explain the signs of acute kidney failure in dogs, and what you should do if your pup shows signs of kidney failure. 


Kidney Failure in Dogs

Healthy kidneys are work to eliminate toxins, regulate hydration, maintain a normal electrolyte balance and release hormones required to produce red blood cells. In dogs diagnosed with kidney failure, the kidneys are longer performing these essential functions efficiently. 

Kidney failure - also referred to as renal failure - can be caused in dogs by a number of diseases that impact the functioning of your pet's kidneys. There are two different types of kidney failure seen in dogs, chronic kidney failure and acute kidney failure.

In today's post we look at acute kidney failure in dogs including the signs, symptoms, causes, treatments and prognosis for dogs with acute kidney failure.

Causes of Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs

When kidney function suddenly decreases - within hours or days - this is known as acute kidney failure or acute renal failure. It is most often related to toxins or infections.

Acute kidney failure in dogs can result from dehydration as well as a bacterial infection called leptospirosis which is contracted through the ingestion of contaminated water. Other causes of acute kidney failure in dogs include the ingestion of:

  • Antifreeze (often licked up off of garage floor or driveway)
  • Grapes and raisins (hidden in other foods or alone)
  • Ibuprofen
  • Human heart medications
  • Overdose of canine medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and aminoglycoside antibiotics

Symptoms of Acute Kidney Failure

Signs of acute kidney failure in dogs will appear quickly, typically within a couple of hours or days of ingesting the toxin. If your dog is suffering from acute kidney failure you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Increase or decrease in water consumption
  • Increase or decrease in volume of urine
  • Vomiting
  • Uncoordinated movement such as stumbling
  • Breath that smells like chemicals
  • Significant decrease in appetite
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Blood in urine
  • Lethargy
If your dog is exhibiting any of the symptoms above, immediate veterinary care is essential. Acute kidney failure can progress rapidly and quickly become fatal.

Diagnosing Acute Kidney Disease in Dogs

Your vet will run a series of blood and urine tests to confirm that your pup is suffering from kidney failure and to get a complete picture of the extent of the disease. Radiographs (X-rays), ultrasound, blood tests and urinalysis are typically used when diagnosing acute kidney failure. The results of these tests will also provide your vet with a more complete picture regarding the extent of the condition. In some cases, a biopsy of the kidney may also be recommended.

Treatment for Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs

Acute kidney failure is a very serious health risk for dogs. Hospitalization and intensive care may be required to save your beloved pet's life. Hospital staff will very closely monitor your dog's heart rate, blood pressure, and overall condition while providing appropriate medications and treatments such as:

  • IV fluids to hydrate and flush out the kidneys. Once IV fluids have been administered your veterinary team will monitor your pet's urine production for signs of improvement.
  • Kidney dialysis (Hemodialysis)
  • Peritoneal dialysis (Feeding a tube directly into the pet's stomach to supply fluids which will be removed after some time to help flush out toxins).
  • Antibiotics may be administered if the cause of your dog's kidney failure is an infection.
  • Medications may be given to prevent or treat stomach ulcers (which are a common side effect of acute kidney failure).
  • In some cases, a feeding tube may be required until your dog is feeling better and able to eat on their own.

Survival Rate for Dogs With Acute Kidney Failure

This condition is very serious and sadly the prognosis for dogs suffering from acute kidney failure is poor. Estimates suggest that more than half of pets suffering from acute kidney failure either die from the condition or are euthanized to prevent suffering.

Nonetheless, if caught early and treated aggressively some dogs are able to recover from acute kidney failure.

Your vet will be able to provide you with a realistic prognosis for your pet's recovery following a complete examination and testing. Your veterinarian will provide you with an estimate of treatment costs and help to guide you through the most appropriate approach to treatment for your pup.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you think that your pet is suffering from acute kidney failure contact our Huntersville, Mecklenburg County vets right away, or head to your nearest animal emergency hospital.

What pet parents need to know about acute kidney failure in dogs, Huntersville Vet

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