While animals are a different species, their organs function similarly to human bodies. Their kidneys are responsible for filtering out waste products in the bloodstream and removing them in urine. Kidneys also help conserve water, control blood pressure, secrete various hormones, and regulate the levels of certain minerals, such as sodium and potassium. If kidney function is impaired, your pet may be diagnosed with kidney disease. Here’s what you should know about animal kidney disease.
Kidney disease is very common in both cats and dogs. Around 1 in 3 cats and 1 in 10 dogs suffer from kidney disease. This health condition is often difficult to catch early and can have devastating effects on our furry friends. Understanding the causes and symptoms of animal kidney disease can help you protect your pet from this disease or identify the problem before it advances too far.
Types of Animal Kidney Disease
Kidney disease in cats and dogs can be classified as chronic or acute. Acute kidney disease happens quickly over several hours or days. Usually after a bacterial infection or accidental toxin ingestion. Conversely, chronic kidney disease has a slow, gradual onset, and may not be noticed until it’s quite advanced. Chronic kidney disease is more likely to occur with age, which is why most pets experience kidney issues later in life.
Acute kidney disease can be reversed if caught early and treated aggressively. However, chronic kidney disease causes irreversible damage. However, there are options to manage chronic kidney issues so your pet can continue to live a happy life.
Common Causes of Kidney Disease in Pets
- Hereditary: Young animals that fail to develop normal kidneys or those with large kidneys filled with cysts are more likely to develop congenital kidney disease.
- Bacterial Infection: Bacterial infections, including leptospirosis, may cause sudden acute kidney disease. The infection causes inflammation, damages the surrounding kidney tissues, and kills renal cells.
- Dental Disease: Bacteria from advanced dental disease can build up on your pet’s teeth and gums over time and then enter the bloodstream. While the kidneys are designed to filter waste, bacteria can reduce the functionality and attack multiple organs, including the kidneys, liver, and heart.
- Toxins: Pets like to lick, eat, and roll in stuff, but some items can put them at real risk. Ordinary table foods like raisins and grapes; chemicals like antifreeze and pesticides; household cleaners; and prescription and OTC medications, especially pain relievers, can all cause kidney disease. If your pet has been poisoned, contact an emergency vet right away.
- Protein Issue: Animals with protein problems (amyloidosis) lose function in the kidneys and other organs when protein deposits replace the normal tissue.
Kidney disease may also result from heatstroke, severe dehydration, snake bites, cancer, kidney stones, kidney blockage, and damage to kidney tubules.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs of animal kidney disease can vary a fair bit. Some signs are subtle and others are severe. A few signs to watch for include:
- Drinking too much water and urinating large volumes of urine
- Decreased appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of interest in playing/activities
- Depression related to high levels of waste product in the blood
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Blood in urine
- Overall weakness due to a low blood count or low blood potassium
- Anemia resulting in pale gums and weakness
- Excessive skin tenting and dry gums
- Signs of dental disease like smelly breath, pale gums, and mouth ulcers
- Unkempt hair coat and weakened bones
- Itchy skin from phosphorus and calcium depositing in the skin
- Ocular hemorrhage or sudden blindness caused by high blood pressure
- A severe decrease in urination
- Intestinal or stomach ulcers may also develop
Preventing Pet Kidney Disease
Kidney disease doesn’t have to be a problem for your pet. Taking preventative steps can keep your furry companion safe and healthy. Consider limiting your pet’s free-roaming behaviors and avoid giving them medications without your vet’s approval. Ensure they don’t have access to household cleaners and chemicals. Keep these products in locked cabinets or high up where your pet can’t reach them.
Ensure your pet is nowhere near toxic food like raisins, chocolate, or grapes. Also, avoid exposure to contaminated water sources and work on improving your pet’s dental health.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There are two basic tests for kidney function: a blood chemistry analysis and a complete urinalysis. An increase in protein in the urine or low urine specific gravity are some indications of kidney disease. A blood chemistry analysis measures the level of two waste products in the blood – blood creatinine (CREA) and blood urea nitrogen (BUN). Tests to measure levels of other substances such as globulin, albumin, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and sodium also help determine the extent of the disease and the best course of treatment. Other tests, such as ultrasound, X-rays, and special blood tests may be necessary to determine the cause of a pet’s kidney disease.
Vets will customize treatment for a sick pet based on the cause and severity of kidney disease. They will also consider any other medical conditions the pet might have. The treatment plan may include:
- Intravenous (IV) fluids
- Medications to treat infections, encourage urine production, reduce vomiting, and ease gastrointestinal problems
- Addition of electrolytes to balance blood levels
- Medicine for anemia
- Blood pressure management
- Diet change
Pets with advanced kidney disease may have to visit the vet as often as every two to three weeks to recheck their blood work and monitor body weight to see if there are any improvements. With appropriate management, stabilized patients can live for years to come, depending on the severity of the disease.
If you have any questions or concerns, contact the experienced and friendly vets at Naples Coastal Animal Hospital to learn more and ensure the well-being of your fur baby.