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The four most common varieties of kidney disease in dogs
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The four most common varieties of kidney disease in dogs

Dogs
Health & Safety

Kidney diseases can come in various different shapes and forms, and can affect dogs at any stage of their lives, from young puppies through to dogs in old age. Most commonly, kidney diseases present in older dogs as their bodies begin to fail as a natural effect of aging, but there are also juvenile-specific variants too, which many owners of younger dogs are not aware of.

Being able to recognise the sometimes-subtle indications of kidney problems and understand the different forms that they can come in and the effects that they may have is vital for all dog owners, as being able to recognise a problem early on means the best chance of survival. As with all serious and/or chronic conditions, the sooner that a treatment or management protocol begins, the better the dog’s long-term chances of survival with a good quality of life are.

In this article, we will provide a short snapshot of the four most common different variants of kidney diseases that can be found in dogs, including how to spot them and how to identify the risk factors for your own dog. Read on to learn more.

1. Juvenile renal disease

Juvenile renal disease is a type of kidney disease that presents in puppies and younger dogs. While the condition can theoretically be found in pups of any breed, the condition has a hereditary element to it and is more common in some breeds than others, with the Doberman pinscher, Poodle, Samoyed and Golden retriever being four breeds with higher than average risk factors.

Generally, puppies are born normally and appear fine for their first few weeks of life, before going on to develop symptoms at a few months old. The symptoms of juvenile renal disease can be subtle, and given the age of onset, easy to confuse with training and behavioural issues too, such as inappropriate urination, problems with house training, and needing to drink a lot of water.

If your pup is always thirsty, can’t seem to get to grips with toileting, and particularly if they have virtually clear urine, get them checked out by your vet.

Juvenile renal disease is not always a death sentence, and a low protein diet can help to support the pup into adulthood, with a good chance of survival with early intervention.

2. Chronic kidney failure

Chronic kidney failure or renal failure is the most common serious kidney disease diagnosed in dogs, and this one generally affects elderly and mature dogs, over the age of around seven or eight. When the kidneys fail in this way, their ability to filter blood becomes greatly compromised or ceases entirely, which means that toxins build up in the blood to a critical level, which can prove fatal.

The indications of chronic kidney failure in dogs include always being thirsty and so, needing to go to the toilet very frequently too, as well as foul breath and other issues such as loss of appetite and possibly, vomiting.

Once these symptoms become apparent, your dog is at serious risk of death-contact your vet immediately to arrange to take them into the clinic, in order to give your dog the best possible chance of survival.

3. Secondary complications of a kidney infection

Kidney infections in the dog are often minor and resolve themselves quickly on their own, but a secondary condition called pyelonephritic kidney disease can result from an untreated kidney infection that lingers on.

The symptoms of pyelonephritic kidney disease can be hard to relate to the kidneys for the uninitiated, as they may include back aches and pains as well as urinary symptoms, such as very dark and/or foul-smelling urine, blood in the urine and problems toileting normally.

Like most forms of kidney disease, affected dogs are usually permanently thirsty too, and so this is one symptom that you should never ignore. Keep a special eye out for symptoms of pyelonephritic kidney disease if your dog is prone to urinary tract or kidney infections, or suffers from kidney stones.

The condition can usually be treated if caught before it causes permanent damage to the kidneys.

4. Kidney stones

Kidney stones can lead to secondary problems as the result of infections as outlined above, but kidney stones (or to give them their scientific name, nephrolithiasis) can pose a problem and form the foundations of kidney disease and damage in and of themselves too.

Kidney stones often appear repeatedly within certain bloodlines, indicating a definite hereditary element to the issue, but they can also develop due to poor management of the dog too, such as if they are not allowed out to the toilet to pee often enough, do not have free access to clean water, or are fed a poor quality diet, or one that is overly high in protein.

Kidney stones can range in size from tiny to very large, and often lead to abdominal pain, loss of interest in food and exercise, and a recurrent propensity to developing kidney or urinary tract infections.

Your vet will be able to run some scans to identify stones, and advise you on how they may be broken up and passed, which may require laser surgery or open surgery, in cases where large stones that cannot be passed naturally are present.

Dogs that have developed kidney stones once are more likely to develop them again in the future, and so your vet may recommend a prescription diet designed to minimise the chances of them developing.

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