Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Kidney Failure in Dogs

Here, our Newtown vets at Newtown Veterinary Specialists discuss the causes of kidney failure in dogs, its symptoms, and the treatment options available.

Kidney Failure (Renal Failure) in Dogs

Many people know renal failure as kidney failure, and it can develop as a result of various conditions that can impact a dog's kidneys and other related organs. When the kidneys are working properly they continuously remove toxins from your pup's body. Your dog's kidneys also work to maintain a normal electrolyte balance, regulate hydration, and release the hormones that are needed to produce red blood cells. When a dog is diagnosed with kidney failure it means that their kidneys aren't performing these functions properly.

The Types of Dog Kidney Failure

Kidney failure in dogs can be acute or chronic.

Acute Kidney Failure

  • Acute Kidney Failure is identified by a sudden decrease in kidney function, usually within several hours or days. Acute kidney failure in dogs is typically caused by an infection or exposure to toxins. If your vet finds acute kidney failure early and treats it aggressively it can often be cured.

Chronic Kidney Failure

  • Chronic kidney failure is characterized by a gradual loss of kidney function over a period of weeks, months or even years. Although not always, chronic kidney failure is most often associated with age-related degeneration and diagnosed in senior dogs. Chronic kidney failure can be successfully managed, but not cured.

The Causes of Kidney Failure in Dogs

There are many different conditions that can impact the kidneys and cause them to fail, such as:

Congenital Disease

  • This category can include underlying illnesses and hereditary conditions - everything from being born without one or both kidneys, to cysts.

Bacterial Infections

  • If your pup swims in or consumes contaminated water, bacterial infections including leptospirosis can attack their system, making the kidneys become inflamed and causing renal cells to die off, leading to kidney failure.


  • If the kidneys are poisoned, this can lead to cell damage within the kidneys. Toxicosis can occur if your dog consumes drugs, toxins, or poisons such as foods or substances that are harmful to pets.

Periodontal Disease

  • If bacteria is left too long on your dog's teeth and gums it will continue to build up, this can lead to canine periodontal disease. The bacteria can then enter the bloodstream and attack multiple organs, causing irreversible damage to the kidneys and other organs such as the liver and heart.

Geriatric Degeneration

  • Gradually, as your pup ages, their renal cells can start to break down and die, eventually causing chronic kidney failure.

The Signs of Dog Kidney Failure

If your dog is suffering from kidney failure you will probably notice one or more of the symptoms below:
  • Vomiting
  • Pale gums
  • Significant decrease in appetite
  • Significant weight loss
  • Breath that smells like chemicals
  • Uncoordinated movement, or stumbling
  • Lethargy
  • Increase/decrease in thirst
  • Blood in urine
  • Increase/decrease in volume of urine
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Intestinal seizures

If you see any of the above symptoms in your dog you need to take them to a vet immediately to have them examined so they can determine if there is an underlying problem such as poisoning or diabetes causing your dog's symptoms.

How Vets Treat Kidney Failure in Dogs

The treatment your vet will use to treat kidney failure in dogs will be determined by the underlying cause of the kidney condition and the pup's overall health.

If your dog is showing any of the symptoms of acute kidney failure, they will require immediate and intensive treatment, which could include a stay in the intensive care unit at your local animal hospital. Although, if acute kidney failure is found in its earliest stages, milder cases can often be treated with antibiotics, and fluids on an outpatient basis. Dialysis, although costly, could also be a very effective method of treatment for acute kidney failure in dogs.

If your dog is diagnosed with chronic kidney failure (kidney disease), their treatment will mostly be focused on slowing down the progression of the disease and looking for ways to improve the quality of your pet's life. The symptoms of chronic kidney failure such as nausea, fluid imbalances, and blood pressure fluctuations can be treated with medications and changes to your pup's diet.

Dogs being treated for chronic kidney failure can go on to enjoy a good quality of life for a number of years. Your vet might suggest specific nutrients, nutritional supplements, or a therapeutic prescription diet to help control your pooch's kidney disease, and improve your dog's quality of life.

How To Prevent Kidney Failure in Your Dog

Acute kidney failure is often caused when dogs consume toxins, tainted foods, or foods they shouldn’t ingest, such as grapes or chocolate. To help prevent your dog from developing acute kidney failure, remove potential toxins such as antifreeze, medications, and potentially harmful foods well out of your dog's reach.

Chronic kidney failure is typically age-related and predetermined by genetics, making it difficult to prevent. Although, wellness exams twice a year can give your vet the opportunity to monitor your dog's health and find subtle signs of chronic kidney failure early so that treatment can begin before the condition becomes more severe.

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.

Contact our Newtown vets immediately if your dog is displaying any symptoms of kidney failure. Our animal hospital is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year to provide emergency care for pets.

New Patients Welcome

Newtown Veterinary Specialists is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Newtown companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Request Appointment

Contact (203) 270-8387