Kidney Failure (Long-Term) in Dogs

Chronic renal failure (CRF) is the progressive disorder that impacts kidneys ability to function properly. Kidneys are vital body organs that are responsible for removing waste products from blood and concentrate urine with this waste to be excreted out of the body. In addition, kidneys are also responsible for regulating blood pressure, blood sugar, blood volume, water composition in the blood, and pH levels, and production of red blood cells and certain hormones. Failure to perform these vital functions have devastating effects on the body, often leading to fatal consequences. 

A healthy kidney makes highly concentrated urine, meaning a large amount of toxins can be handled and excreted in a relatively small amount of water. A failing kidney, by contrast, needs more and more water to excrete the same amount of toxins. A dog in kidney failure will drink increasing quantities of water, until eventually he simply can’t drink enough and toxin levels in his bloodstream begin to rise.

The progression of renal kidney failure occurs slowly, over a period of months and sometimes, years. Symptoms do not appear until the damage is permanent. By the time of diagnosis, it may be too late to treat the condition effectively. Often, the kidney will find ways to compensate as it loses functionality over the course of months, or even years. The disease is associated with irreversible changes to the kidney structure, such as scarring and loss of nephrons, the functional units of the kidney. 

Although CRF can occur in any dog, it is most commonly seen in older dogs. The causes of CRF aren’t understood. As dogs age, their kidneys may just wear out. Also some breeds are predisposed to this condition. These include Samoyed, Bull Terrier, Cairn Terrier, German Shepherd and English Cocker Spaniel.

Signs and symptoms associated with CRF may vary due to diversified functionality of kidneys,and occur over a period of time. Chronic renal failure (CRF) can be present without obvious symptoms for a very long time. When kidney disease is asymptomatic, it usually is called renal “insufficiency,” rather than renal “failure”. Common symptoms include Polyuria (increased frequency of urination), Hyposthenuria (dilute urine), Polydipsia (increased frequency of drinking), Anorexia, Vomiting, Weight loss, Dehydration (due to inability to reabsorb the water), blindness (due to hypertension), exercise intolerence (due to low RBC count), Muscle weakness and seizures (rare). Other causes include depression, diarrhea, constipation, blood in urine, frequent urination and coma.


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