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Kidney and Urinary Disease in Dogs and Cats

Causes, Signs, Treatment and Prevention of Kidney Disease in Pets


Kidney failure, also referred to as renal failure or renal insufficiency, can occur in both dogs and cats. In a healthy animal, the kidneys filter waste products that are produced by the body. In kidney failure, these waste products are not filtered properly and start to build up in the blood stream. This is when clinical signs of kidney failure are often noticed. Learn about the sometimes subtle changes seen with kidney disease to know when a visit to the vet is warranted. 

1. Types and Causes of Kidney Failure in Dogs and Cats

Neko by The Paessels on Flickr
by The Paessels on Flickr

Canine and feline kidney failure occur suddenly (acute) or over time (chronic). Kidney failure can also be classified as pre-renal, renal or post-renal. There are many potential causes for kidney problems. Read this article to help identify disease types and possible kidney toxins that could affect your pet.

2. Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Dogs and Cats

Sabine by ky_olsen/Flickr
by ky_olsen/Flickr

Kidney failure is common in dogs and cats. Knowing the symptoms to watch for can help you know when to seek veterinary care for your dog or cat. Prompt and aggressive treatment for kidney failure will give your dog or cat a better chance of a successful outcome.

3. Testing for Canine and Feline Kidney Failure

Lorie Huston DVM
Lorie Huston DVM

Canine and feline kidney failure can be a devastating disease for dog and cat owners and for their pets. There are many different tests that are used to diagnose and monitor the progress of kidney failure.

4. What is USG (Urine Specific Gravity) and What Does it Measure?

Refractometer / Fernando G. on Wikimedia Commons
Fernando G. on Wikimedia Commons
If your dog or cat is drinking and urinating more than normal, one of the first things your veterinarian will want to check is the USG, or urine specific gravity, followed usually by bloodwork to check liver, kidneys, and other health parameters.

5. Treating ACUTE Renal Failure in Dogs and Cats

Acute renal failure in dogs and cats is a serious and life-threatening disease
Photo Courtesy of ttarasiuk/Flickr.com

Acute renal failure is also known as acute (sudden) kidney failure. Affected dogs and cats require prompt and aggressive treatment to increase their chance for survival. Left untreated, kidney failure can be fatal.

6. Treating CHRONIC Canine and Feline Renal Failure


Kidney failure in dogs and cats may be acute or chronic. While acute kidney failure may be reversible, chronic kidney failure will likely need to be monitored and treated accordingly over the long term.

7. Preventing Kidney Failure in Dogs and Cats

Lorie Huston DVM
Lorie Huston DVM

Kidney failure in dogs and cats has many different potential causes. Though preventing kidney failure may not be possible in all cases, there are a few things that you can do to help avoid the preventable cases.

8. Your Pets - Tell us about your experiences with dog or cat kidney disease

Java - by D'Arcy Norman on Flickr
by D'Arcy Norman on Flickr

The signs seen with kidney failure may be dramatic - failure to urinate, anorexia, vomiting, or more subtle gradual changes, often attributed to "just old age." Knowing the signs of kidney failure will help you get your pet to the vet sooner to begin treatment.

What signs did you notice, and how do you cope with your pet's kidney disease and manage clinical signs at home?

9. Urinary Problems in Dogs

Dog and Fire Hydrant by sibtigre2 on Flickr
by sibtigre2 on Flickr

Urinary problems in dogs are common. Signs can range from barely noticeable to unable to urinate (this is an emergency). Some urinary problems are the result of other diseases, such as kidney failure or diabetes with increased urination as the most common first sign.

Other problems may be the result of stones or tumors in the bladder; causing abnormal urination habits, blood in the urine and infections. If your pet has changes in urinary habits, please see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

10. Urinary Problems in Cats

Cat in litter box by wolfsavard on Flickr
by wolfsavard on Flickr

Cats are well-known for their "urinary issues" -- spraying, marking, urinary tract infections and urethral obstructions. These events may happen once or multiple times, a singular event or related. It is always most important to rule out a medical problem such as infection or kidney disease before assuming that your cat is just being "bad" or upset about something.

Urinary obstructions are responsible for a wide variety of behavioral signs, and can be fatal in 72 hours or less if untreated, so a veterinary exam is most important.

11. Your Pets - Tell us about your pet's urinary infection/behavioral problem

Kim's Kittens by Zemlinki! on Flickr
by Zemlinki! on Flickr

Urinary tract infections in pets are common. Many of the signs of urinary problems for dogs and cats are similar. While both dogs and cats have the potential to become obstructed ("blocked"), this potentially life-threatening situation is more common in male cats. Prompt veterinary care is essential, as blocked animals may die within hours.

If your pet shows any changes in urinary habits, a trip to the vet is in order to clear up the infection and search for other problems such as bladder stones. Has your pet had a urinary tract infection, blockage or stones? Please share your experiences - first signs noticed, required treatments, etc.

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