Kidney problems in dogs are common – especially in seniors. This problem is estimated to affect 10% of dogs in their lifetime.
Kidney problems have different causes. They may also affect dogs of different age groups. Since kidneys extract waste from blood, any damage or problems in it can surely make your Labrador sick.
Common Types of Kidney Problems in Dogs
Problems in kidney filtration system or the glomerulus is very common. Dogs show no signs of it during the early stage. Glomerular Disease is believed to be caused by infections such as Lyme Disease or even cancer. As this kidney disease progresses, inflammation of glomerulus of the kidney may occur – damaging the surrounding kidney tissues.
Bacteria and fungus can also infect kidney tissues – but these infections are often treatable. Dogs with pyelonephritis are often treated with antibiotics to kill the bacteria that are causing the damage and inflammation.
Nephrolithiasis or Kidney Stones
Kidney stones can be formed due to chronic bacterial infections. But genetics and diseases may have key roles in their formation, too. Kidney stones generally do not cause dogs pain.But they can cause blockage within the kidney or its ducts, and this can contribute to kidney tissue infection.
The stones can also be carried along with urine into the ureter, which is the long and narrow tube that connects each kidney to the urinary bladder. When stones get stuck in the ureter, it can cause full or partial blockage and can make peeing painful for your Labrador. When this happens, the urine cannot get out of the kidney – causing it to swell. With too much pressure the kidneys could grow large (hydronephrosis) – leading to damage. And things can get a lot worse if both ureters are blocked.
Kidney Tubule Damage or Tubulointerstitial Disease
When the kidney tubules and its supporting tissues get inflamed and damaged, chronic kidney disease often follows. This kidney disease often has no identified cause but it can be confirmed by microscopic examination of a kidney biopsy specimen – but this is not always advisable.
Infection Caused By Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can affect kidneys, livers, and other organs. This disease can affect different animals – even humans. Leptospirosis can cause chronic kidney disease. Leptospirosis is treatable especially if it’s caught early.
Kidney amyloidosis is a rare disorder of protein metabolism in which abnormal deposits of a protein called amyloid is deposited in the kidneys. Its cause still remains poorly understood. Amyloidosis is a rare protein metabolism disorder. Dogs with this condition lose function in certain organs, including the kidneys. It believed to be the result of chronic inflammation affecting other parts of the body. Some dog breeds like Beagles and Collies are more prone to catch it. This condition is very hard to treat as amyloid deposits cannot be removed and the functional kidney tissues the protein that is lost cannot be replaced.
Signs of Kidney Problems in Dogs
The signs of kidney problems in dogs vary. The symptoms a dog with the kidney issues show are often the result from the body’s attempt to compensate for the organ’s failure to flush toxins fully. The symptoms of kidney problems in dogs include:
- Excessive drinking or increased thirst,
- Increased amount of urine or frequent urination,
- Loss of appetite,
- Ulcers in the mouth,
- Foul-smelling breath that smells like ammonia,
- Enlarged tummy,
- Discoloration of teeth,
- Loose teeth,
- Muscle atrophy,
- Pale gums,
- Exercise intolerance,
- Dry and flaky coat and skin,
- Bleeding disorders,
When an affected dog’s kidneys start to deteriorate, his pee loses color and becomes less concentrated. During the last stage of kidney failure, the dog will develop high blood pressure,eventually, stop eating, and try peeing little or no urine. Ultimately, these dogs may collapse, go into a comatose and die. Sadly, most owners cannot detect chronic kidney disease until much damage has occurred.
How are Kidney Problems Diagnosed?
Most cases of kidney problems can be seen via simple blood and urine tests like a serum biochemical profile and a complete blood count (CBC). When a dog has kidney disease, his blood urea nitrogen (BUN), phosphorus, potassium, creatinine, and other electrolytes are elevated.
Another diagnostic tool that is done on dogs who are suspected of kidney problems is the urinalysis. To do this, you must catch your Labrador’s urine via a cup and take it to the vet. This way, the chances of contamination are low. Another way to do it is by catheterization. The sample gathered is then assessed for odor, cloudiness, color, the presence of stones, crystals, and more. Then, the sample may also be tested by dipping chemical reagent test strips in it. Further tests may be done if the veterinarian sees something abnormal in the tests. If the veterinarian suspects your Labrador has kidney stones, X-rays and ultrasound may be recommended to confirm the presence or enlargement.
Depending on the clinical symptoms seen by the vet and results of other tests, the veterinarian may also recommend an electrocardiogram (ECG), test kits for bacterial and viral diseases (like leptospirosis or lyme disease), biopsies, etc. Urine culture and sensitivity may also be done especially if your Labrador has chronic kidney disease.
Treatment Options for Kidney Problems in Dogs
If your Labrador gets diagnosed with acute kidney disease, hospitalization and administration of IV fluids are needed. Depending on your Labrador’s case, a urinary catheter may be inserted to quantify urine output. Drugs may also be given to induce urine production. If electrolyte or acid-base imbalances are found in your Labrador’s tests, supplements may be given in an attempt to restore them to normal levels. Medications may also be given to manage other symptoms.
On the other hand, dogs with chronic kidney disease also require hospitalization. Dehydration must be addressed by administration of IV fluids. Nutritional support must also be provided but not with just any food. It is strongly recommended to give dogs suffering from chronic kidney disease only “renal diet”, which a diet that is high in quality but low in phosphorus and sodium. However, veterinarians are divided on whether dogs with chronic kidney failure need low-protein food or not. This is because a lot of “high-protein” dog foods are made using low-quality protein sources. These foods can increase nitrogen levels in the dog’s body – affecting the kidney and the liver. Other veterinarians think that chronic kidney disease sufferers need high biological protein values to help their body preserve or prolong kidney function. A lot of chronic kidney disease sufferers lose weight dramatically that’s why vets often recommend giving high-calorie food.
Dogs with kidney disease may also be given appetite stimulants and medications to support their health and encourage them to eat to avoid dehydration and further weight loss. Sometimes, phosphate-binding medications may be prescribed to lower blood phosphorus levels. Periodic subcutaneous fluids may also be given especially if the disease is near its end-stage.
Depending on the remaining filtering abilities of your Labrador, dialysis may be performed to manage the disease. Several forms of dialysis are done to take over the filtering function of the kidneys like the Peritoneal Dialysis and Hemodialysis. The kind of dialysis to be used varies depending on the type of kidney problem the dog is suffering from.
In severe cases, kidney transplants may be done. This is a very expensive procedure and is rarely done. Only a few veterinary hospitals are capable of handling this procedure.
Preventing Kidney Problems in Dogs
The best way and most effective way to prevent severe or chronic kidney problems in dogs are to have annual – or bi-annual – blood and urine tests. This way you are able to monitor your Labrador’s kidney function as well as his overall health, and address any health issues as early it is detected. Bi-annual testing is highly recommended for dogs ages 7 and above.
You may also help prevent your Labrador from developing kidney problems by making sure he eats quality dog food and drinks adequate amounts of water each day. Keeping objects and foods that can potentially damage his kidneys when ingested is highly advisable. Keep your Labrador away from antifreeze, medications, detergents and cleaners, pesticides, grapes, batteries and other potential toxins.
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