As our furry friends grow older, they can experience health issues the same way older people can. One type of old dog health problem that can occur is kidney insufficiency or kidney failure (also called renal failure). A senior dog kidney problems aren't uncommon - aging organs eventually deteriorate, and kidney cells do not regenerate.
Kidneys play an important role in the body. They process and filter out waste materials as well as excess salt and water. When kidneys start to fail, they are no longer able to efficiently remove waste from the body and so they are forced to work harder in order to compensate. The loss of kidney function continues... but dogs will begin drinking and urinating more to try to keep their bodies free of waste. Eventually, though, this just isn't enough.
Pet owners often first notice that something is wrong when their dogs need to be let out for a potty break more often. Sometimes dogs will have accidents inside the house because they are unable to hold it until they are let outside again. Other symptoms include weight loss, decreased energy, increased sleep, and fussiness with food.
By the time an examination, blood work, and urinalysis reveal that there are kidney problems, there has already been a significant and irreplaceable loss of kidney function. Dogs who appear to feel unwell must always be taken to the vet for diagnosis, as there are a number of diseases or medical conditions that share the same symptoms as kidney disease (for example, excessive thirst and urination may also be symptoms of Cushings Disease in dogs).
Although it's currently not possible to cure a senior dog with kidney problems, there are things that can be done to keep the dog feeling as well as possible. These include special diets, medications, supplements, and fluids. Ensuring the dog gets sufficient fluid is crucial to help the kidneys function as best they can and to remove toxins from the dog's body. Some ways to provide more water include:
Sometimes a pet drinking fountain can provide interest to dogs and encourage them to drink more.
In an emergency, the vet may need to provide fluids intraveneously.
Although the time will come when the dog's quality of life suffers, a senior dog with kidney problems can still potentially live happily and comfortably for many months or even years. Talk to your vet about your dog's individual situation.