Dog Health: Senior Dog With Kidney Problems

As our furry friends grow older, they can experience health issues the same way older people can. One type of that can occur is kidney insufficiency or kidney failure (also called renal failure). A aren't uncommon - aging organs eventually deteriorate, and kidney cells do not regenerate.

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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.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

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 their bladders until they are let outside again. Other symptoms of kidney disease in dogs 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 ).

For more tips on how to help aging pets, check out our buying guide for Products That Improve the Lives of Senior Pets.

How to Help a Dog With Kidney Problems

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:

  • Keep several bowls of fresh water in various places throughout the house, and clean and re-fill them regularly. The simple act of making it more convenient for the dog to access water may encourage him to drink a little more.

    Dogs who don't drink enough might find a pet drinking fountain more interesting. The running water could help to entice or encourage them to drink more.

  • Feed canned food, which has a higher water content then kibble. Some people prefer to homecook meals for their dog (not all dogs will eat prescription diets). Consult with a veterinary nutritionist to make sure that the meals provide appropriate nutrients for your dog's condition.

  • Water down the dog's food. For example, add water to canned food to make a 'soup', or soak kibble in warm water for a few minutes prior to feeding. Water can be added to any food if the dog is willing to consume it.

  • If the dog will allow it, use a syringe to provide him with more water.

  • There may come a time when the veterinarian decides that the dog requires injections of subcutaneous fluids (fluids injected underneath the skin). This keeps the dog hydrated and the kidneys working as well as they can. If your dog requires regular injections, you may wish to ask the vet to show you how to administer it yourself at home.

    In an emergency, the vet may need to provide fluids intraveneously.

The use of washable underpads on top of bedding and on floors can also make it easier for human caregivers, minimizing the amount of extra cleaning that needs to be done if the dog has an accident.

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.