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Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs

When a dog's kidneys are healthy, they perform a number of essential functions. However, dogs experiencing acute kidney failure suffer from a sudden and rapid decline in kidney function that will need urgent veterinary care. In this post, our Madison vets list signs of acute kidney failure in dogs and what to do if your dog suddenly shows signs of kidney failure. 

Kidney Failure in Dogs

Renal failure in dogs, also known as kidney failure, can result from various diseases affecting your pet's kidney function. Healthy kidneys actively maintain a normal electrolyte balance, release hormones necessary for red blood cell production, eliminate toxins, and regulate hydration in your dog's body.

When a dog receives a diagnosis of kidney failure, its kidneys lose efficiency in performing their diverse functions. Two distinct types of kidney failure can affect dogs: chronic kidney failure and acute kidney failure.

Causes of Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs

Acute kidney failure, or acute renal failure, occurs when the kidneys experience a sudden decrease in function, typically within hours or days. Infections or toxins are often the primary contributors.

Dogs may experience acute kidney failure due to dehydration or a bacterial infection known as leptospirosis, which they can contract by ingesting contaminated water. Other potential causes of acute kidney failure in dogs include the ingestion of:

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

Symptoms of Acute Kidney Failure

Signs of acute kidney failure in dogs will come on quickly, usually within a couple of hours or days of ingesting the toxin. If your dog is experiencing acute kidney failure, you might notice one or more of these symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Increase or decrease in volume of urine
  • Breath that smells like chemicals
  • Significant decrease in appetite
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Increase or decrease in water consumption
  • Blood in urine
  • Vomiting
  • Uncoordinated movement, such as stumbling
If your pup shows any of the symptoms above, immediate veterinary care is required. Acute kidney failure can be fatal. Early treatment is essential to achieve the best possible treatment outcomes.

Diagnosing Acute Kidney Disease in Dogs

Your vet will conduct a series of blood and urine tests to confirm your pup's kidney failure and to assess the full extent of the disease. Veterinarians typically utilize radiographs (X-rays), ultrasound, blood tests, and urinalysis when diagnosing acute kidney failure. These diagnostic tests will also give your vet a more comprehensive understanding of the condition's severity. In certain instances, a kidney biopsy may also be suggested.

Treatment for Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs

Acute renal failure poses a significant health risk for dogs. At Best Friends Animal Hospital, we provide veterinary internal medicine services, diagnosing and treating various internal medicine conditions in dogs and cats, including kidney failure. Our board-certified internal medicine specialist ensures the highest quality veterinary care for your pet.

Hospitalization and intensive care may be necessary to save your pup's life. Our hospital staff will closely monitor your dog's heart rate, blood pressure, and overall condition while administering 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 feels better and can eat on their own.

Can Dogs Survive Acute Kidney Failure?

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

That said, 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 estimate treatment costs and help 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 dog is suffering from acute kidney failure, immediate veterinary care is required! Contact our vets today for an appointment.

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Best Friends Animal Hospital is always accepting new patients. Our experienced veterinary team is passionate about the health and comfort of companion animals. Get in touch today to learn about the difference our expertise makes.

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