Kidney Failure in Dogs When to Euthanasia & Life Expectancy

If your pet has been diagnosed with kidney failure, there are several important factors you should consider before making the decision to euthanize.

When to euthanize a pet with kidney failure

If your dog appears lethargic, has lost appetite, and is experiencing uncontrolled vomiting, they are probably in pain and will not likely recover. In these cases, euthanasia may be the most humane option for your pet.

How long can a dog live with kidney failure?

A pet with kidney disease can live for a few months to a few years, depending on how severe it is and how the treatment is handled.

Research has discovered that pets can live for an average of 4 years after the onset of kidney failure.

While it’s hard to know for sure when a pet will die in advance, it’s important to realize that each pet is an individual. A pet’s life span varies based on several factors, including its breed, overall health, diet, and lifestyle.

What is the process of a dog dying of kidney disease?

The consequences of kidney failure may cause pain and discomfort to your pet.

The earliest sign that something is wrong with your pet’s kidneys is loss of appetite and/or weight loss. Next, pets often will start to drink more than usual and urinate more often than usual.

However, it is important to note that these symptoms may not always be present in pets with kidney failure or they may not appear until later in the disease process.

As kidney failure progresses, pets begin to show signs of lethargy and weakness which can progress to vomiting.

Anytime your pet shows signs of illness or lethargy, contact your veterinarian immediately for advice on how to proceed. If left untreated, kidney problems in pets can be fatal!

When the kidneys start to fail, toxins such as ammonia and nitrogen can build up in the pet’s body. These substances can cause the pet to be sick and lead to serious complications.

What is kidney failure in dogs?

The kidneys are vital to several different bodily functions, so renal (kidney) failure can cause a whole host of health problems for our pets. Whether it is kidney failure due to an underlying illness or simply the result of old age, managing the condition and its symptoms will give your pets a much better quality of life.

The kidneys are very important organs, responsible for many different functions within the body. Normally functioning kidneys are involved in the following:

  • Removing metabolic waste products and substances detoxified by the liver
  • Reacting to ADH (Aldosterone) which stimulates the exchange of water into the blood
  • Production of a chemical that affects red blood cell production
  • Regulating the pH of the blood and bodily fluids by retaining or eliminating certain ions
  • Regulating the fluid surrounding cells, also known as extracellular fluid volume regulation

Dogs can live with only one functional kidney, but this puts increasing pressure on the remaining one, so regular testing is vital to ensure the healthy kidney is functioning normally and removing toxins from the blood.

Acute renal failure

The first type of organ failure is Acute Renal Failure (ARF) and generally happens suddenly over just a few hours or days. Acute renal failure can be caused by a number of things such as a symptom of another illness, an infection in one or both kidneys, physical trauma, stones in the urinary tract or ingestion of a toxic substance.

Symptoms of ARF include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Bad breath
  • Weakness
  • Disorientation
  • Urinating more often
  • Pain during urination
  • Seizures

If diagnosed and treated quickly, acute renal failure can be reversed. In severe cases, the animal may suffer long-term side effects or even death. Diagnosis is done via testing of a urine sample as well as a full-body examination. The vet may also take a blood sample to check kidney function.

Chronic renal failure

The second type of renal failure is Chronic Renal Failure (CRF). Chronic Renal Failure is caused by the deterioration of the kidneys over a period of months. Small structures called nephrons start to die off, reducing the kidneys’ ability to filter waste products and regulate body fluids. The cause may be an infection, tumors, old age, or other unknown causes.

It is suspected that CRF may be caused by poor nutrition. Low-quality ingredients such as fillers and by-products are thought to cause damage to certain urinary systems.

Symptoms of CRF are similar to ARF but also include:

  • Drooling
  • Dullness of the coat
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive drinking

Unfortunately, chronic conditions are difficult to treat. Not only is treating the condition itself a complex process, but CRF often causes other complications that will also require treatment or long-term management. Fluids can be prescribed for dehydration and blood pressure medication to prevent further damage.

How can I make my pet with kidney failure comfortable?

The most common method of managing renal failure is diet. Your veterinarian will most likely recommend switching your pet to a veterinary diet specially formulated for animals with kidney failure. Supplements such as vitamins B and C may also be recommended.

It is common for pets with renal failure to experience bladder infections, in which case antibiotics will be prescribed.

Be sure to put out fresh water and monitor their intake, some cats like to drink moving water. You can purchase cat water fountains from most pet stores that produce a small, regular flow of water.

Regular vet checks will be required for the remainder of your pet’s life to monitor their condition. Your vet may recommend changes to their medication or diet in the event of any medical changes or deterioration.

Cat breeds most at risk of renal failure are Persian, Ragdoll, Russian Blue, Maine Coon and Siamese. For dogs, Bull Terriers and English Cocker Spaniels are most at risk of suffering from Chronic Renal Failure.

Unfortunately, there are currently no known preventative methods. The only treatments and techniques available are designed to slow the progress of the disease. Your pet’s prognosis will depend upon the severity of their condition and how well they respond to treatment.

Dog With Failing Kidneys Receives Transplant
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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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