The kidneys are two of the most important organs in our pet’s bodies; however, like any celebrity, they too can travel from hero to zero and transform a healthy, balanced body into an unstable mess in need of help. 

Kidney disease is a common medical problem in our pets. It is more frequent in geriatric dogs; however, puppies and young adults can also be affected. It is usually an irreversible and progressive disease but, when we detect it early, we are able to put the brakes on its progression and minimise the discomfort it causes to our pets. That’s why it’s so important that you are aware of what to look for. 

The best way of understanding the symptoms of kidney disease is by knowing what tasks the kidneys are failing to do, and there are two main ones: 

1- Regulating the amount of water in the body 

To prevent dehydration, healthy kidneys retain water when there isn’t enough in the body, by producing concentrated urine. Sick kidneys are unable to retain water, and they lose a lot of it, producing an abnormally large volume of dilute urine. Therefore, dogs with kidney disease urinate more than usual, a symptom we, vets, call polyuria. 

Dog owners usually report their pet has become incontinent or is suddenly urinating in the house. They may also ask to go out more often or simply urinate for longer periods. To prevent dehydration, dogs try to compensate for renal losses by drinking more water (polydipsia). This is one of the symptoms that is most commonly noticed by owners.

If the condition progresses and the body can’t compensate for that water loss, despite an increase in thirst, pets become dehydrated. As a result, you may notice that their coats turn from shiny to dull, their gums become dry or the skin loses its elasticity. 

2- Removing toxic/waste products from the body 

Have you ever wondered what gives urine its odour? The answer is the waste produced by our body, that is toxic and excreted by the kidneys! And, you guessed it right, sick kidneys do not eliminate the body’s waste effectively, so these toxins accumulate and dogs start displaying symptoms of an intoxicated body: 

The signs tend to be mild in the early stages, some dogs start showing a selective appetite that may wax and wane, lose weight and muscle mass. In more severe cases, pets may develop mouth ulcers or have smelly breath

What should I do if my dog develops any of these symptoms?

As mentioned above, although kidney disease does not have a cure and tends to progress over time, early diagnosis and institution of treatment can limit its progression. In some cases, this treatment may be as simple as a change to your dog’s diet.

But it’s important to take this first step. This allows you to control the clinical signs, giving your dog their deserved comfort and quality of life back! When going to the vets, you can take some urine, ideally the first morning sample. This can then be tested to see if it is diluted or not. Ordinarily, we would also perform a blood test to confirm or exclude the presence of kidney disease. 

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The good news is that many of the symptoms described above, like reduced appetite or diarrhoea for example, are very unspecific. It could simply mean your dog has got a taste of the neighbour’s delicious bin. However, I think we all agree it is better to go to the vets and come home with good news than overlooking your dog’s symptoms and regretting not having checked earlier. 

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