As in humans, the kidneys play an important role in the overall health of our pets. Apart from making urine, kidneys are responsible for regulating the balance of electrolytes in the body, keeping blood pressure in check, and the production of hormones that aid in calcium metabolism and red blood cell production.
While a diagnosis of kidney disease in our pet is understandably alarming, with proper care, this disease is usually manageable over the long term.
A Disease by Many Other Names
Kidney disease is a general term often used when referring to a specific kidney problem, including, kidney failure, chronic renal failure, renal insufficiency, insufficient kidney function, and chronic kidney disease (CKD). All of these terms refer to the same fundamental problem – the kidneys are no longer functioning properly.
Since the term ‘kidney disease’ is broad, it can be used in conjunction with any of the following conditions:
- Nephritis – kidney inflammation
- Kidney stones
- Nephrotoxicosis – damage to the kidney that occurs due to a toxin (such as antifreeze) or exposure to certain medications.
- Chronic kidney failure – a condition in which the kidneys slowly lose function over time; commonly occurs in cats, is associated with aging in dogs.
- Heart failure – decreased blood supply can also damage other organs, including the kidneys.
If caught quickly, acute kidney failure (such as in the case of antifreeze exposure) is reversible. There is no cure for chronic kidney disease, but it can be effectively managed over the course of a pet’s lifetime. It is important to note that dental disease is a common cause of chronic kidney disease in pets, and another reason for paying attention to our pets’ dental health.
Signs of Kidney Disease in Pets
As kidney disease in pets develops, the kidneys lose their ability to perform their vital functions. Your pet may experience:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination/accidents in the house
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Dull coat/decreased self-grooming
- Chemical odor to breath
- Blood in urine
Please bring your pet in to see us if you observe any of the above symptoms. The earlier we diagnose kidney disease, either chronic or acute, the better the outcome for your pet.
Keeping Them Healthy
The treatment for kidney disease depends upon the pet’s individual situation. A pet poisoning emergency will require immediate care and hospitalization, whereas, kidney stones may require surgery. Chronic kidney failure can usually be managed with medications and overall lifestyle adjustments. In some cases, special diets, supplements, and attention to hydration can help keep kidney disease in check.
Is Kidney Disease Preventable?
Because there is often a genetic component to kidney disease, it cannot always be prevented. However, you can help keep your pet’s kidneys functioning at their peak by:
- Making sure all automotive chemicals, cleaning products, medications, and people foods are stored out of your pet’s reach.
- Keeping an eye on your pet’s water intake. A circulating water fountain may encourage a finicky pet (meow) to drink more water.
- Get your pet to all of its annual or semi-annual physical examinations. By keeping track of your pet’s overall health, we can catch and treat problems early on when they first arise.