Kidney failure in dogs

Kidney failure in dogs is a fairly common disease. The kidneys are essential organs since they are in charge of a multitude of vital functions. However, the main one is to cleanse the blood of the waste products of metabolism through the formation of urine.

For that, they are made up of structures called “nephrons,” which are the filtering units of the kidney. They also make hormones like erythropoietin, which stimulates the production of red blood cells; renin, which regulates blood pressure, and vitamin D. On the other hand, the kidneys control the amount of fluid and ions (sodium and potassium) and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus.

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Kidney failure in dogs occurs when the kidneys are unable to carry out some or all of their functions. However, there are two types of kidney failure your dog can suffer from:

Acute renal failure

Acute kidney failure occurs when the kidney suddenly stops working. It can occur at any age, and if it does, your dog will show symptoms quickly.

This type of kidney failure affects the filtering capacity of the kidney, the production of urine and the control of ions and minerals. Nitrogen waste products from the digestion of proteins (urea, creatinine, ammonia, etc.) accumulate in the blood (azotemia), so your dog ends up suffering from poisoning (uremia).

With proper treatment, acute kidney failure can be reversible, although it can be fatal or lead to chronic kidney failure if it is very severe or not detected early. Therefore, if you notice any of the following symptoms in your dog, we recommend that you go to your veterinarian as soon as possible:

  • Vomiting and anorexia
  • Sadness and lethargy.
  • You urinate little or no urine (anuria or oliguria) or urinate excessively (polyuria).
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Disorientation or, if very severe, even eat.

The causes of acute kidney failure are:

  • Ingestion of toxic products such as ethylene glycol (sweet taste; it is the antifreeze in cars).
  • Bacterial infections, such as leptospira.
  • Hemorrhage and dehydration.
  • Medications such as anti-inflammatories, some antibiotics, and diuretics.
  • Ingestion of grapes or raisins.
  • Leishmania.
  • Obstruction of the urethra in a way that prevents saline from the urine (stones, for example).

Chronic renal failure

The kidney gradually loses its functions over the months or years. Therefore, chronic kidney failure is more common in older dogs. It is usually caused by wear and tear caused by age, although it can also be due to tumors or other chronic diseases that affect the kidney.

In this case, when your dog shows symptoms, the kidney has already lost up to 75% of its function, and the nephrons have been replaced by scar tissue, which is irreversible. The symptoms of chronic kidney failure are:

  • Polyuria and polydipsia: Since your dog will need to produce more urine to eliminate the same amount of toxins as when he was healthy, he will drink more water to avoid dehydration. However, there will come a time when it will not be enough, and you will begin to show signs of poisoning.
  • Vomiting, anorexia, dehydration, bad breath, mouth ulcers, weight loss, protein loss, anemia, smaller and irregular kidneys, hypertension, and increased phosphorus in the blood.


Kidney failure in dogs distinguishes four stages. If your dog is in the former, he can live for years; but if it is in the last, only months. Therefore, it is important to detect this disease as soon as possible and start with a treatment that slows its progression.


It is not always possible to avoid kidney failure in your dog, especially if he is older, but it is possible in the case of kidney failure water. To do this, you can:

  • Prevent your dog from accessing toxins such as the anticoagulant in your car or your medications. 
  • Keep fresh and clean water always at your disposal.
  • Keep their vaccinations and deworming up to date.
  • Get them routine health check-ups, especially from the age of 8.
  • Provide him with good quality food according to his size and age.

And if your dog already suffers from kidney failure, your veterinarian will recommend specific food such as ADVANCE Renal, which will allow your dog to live longer and with a better quality of life. Adequate food can increase your life expectancy up to three times.

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