If your dog has been diagnosed with kidney failure, that means you’ve likely had a lengthy conversation with your vet about his prognosis. Your dog’s vet should explain the causes of the condition, spoke with you about how much longer your pup has, and previewed what to expect in his last days.
Several dog breeds are predisposed to kidney failure. Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds, and Bull Terriers are among those breeds. If you own one of these breeds, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with kidney failure in dogs even if your pup has not been diagnosed.
This guide was designed to help dog owners understand kidney failure and, in the unfortunate event that your dog has been diagnosed, learn what to expect in the last days of kidney failure with dogs.
Before scrolling down this guide “Last Days of Dog with Kidney Failure – What to Expect,” check out: What To Expect After Neutering Your Dog? (2023) and My Dog Keeps Swallowing: What Does This Mean? (2023).
What Do the Kidneys Do?
Healthy dogs have healthy kidneys. Kidneys work in concert with other organs to remove toxins from the blood, and they’re responsible for the production of urine. They work as filters for your dog as she consumes and digests food; the “bad stuff” will be sent to be eliminated from the body and the “good stuff” will be sent back into the bloodstream.
As your dog goes about daily life, her kidneys are receiving a great volume of blood flow. Special vessels take toxins such as ammonia, creatinine, and hormonal waste and signal to the body that they must be removed through waste or urine. Necessary nutrients such as vitamins and certain hormones are retained and sent back into the body to be utilized.
In addition, your dog’s healthy kidneys will help her regulate her electrolytes. Examples of electrolytes include potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus; in short, electrolytes carry an electric charge when they’re dissolved in the blood. Healthy electrolytes support your dog’s nerve function and keep her heart functioning properly.
Finally, your pup’s kidneys release hormones. Renin regulates blood pressure. Erythropoietin regulates the production of red blood cells. Finally, while vitamin D is not a hormone, the kidneys play a critical part in making the nutrient useful to your dog, transforming it into a substance that will keep your dog’s bones and muscles strong and healthy.
As you can see, your pup’s kidneys are important. So when something goes wrong, it can lead to a series of health problems for your dog.
What is Kidney Failure?
Kidney disease, or renal disease, is any condition that results in the improper functioning of the kidneys. If your dog is diagnosed with kidney disease, you may notice a wide range in the severity of the condition. Your vet can further discuss the particulars of your dog’s ailment and will suggest the next steps for the care of your pup.
The stages of kidney disease are numbered, much like cancer in humans. Stage 1 is the least severe and, with early detection, you and your vet can take steps to comfort your dog as he either progresses or recovers. Stage 4 is the most severe stage of renal failure. If your dog reaches this stage, your veterinarian will likely begin speaking to you about end-of-life care and the possibility of euthanasia.
Unfortunately, kidney failure is common in dogs. It’s estimated that approximately one out of every ten dogs is affected by this condition, and once it’s diagnosed, the disease is often debilitating — or even fatal.
If your dog has never been diagnosed with kidney disease, that’s wonderful! Hopefully, your dog will remain healthy and live a long, happy life. With that said, however, it’s important to recognize the signs of kidney failure in dogs. Detecting the disease early can help you and your vet prolong your dog’s life.
Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Dogs
Kidney failure in dogs presents itself in a number of ways. While every dog is different, there are a few signs you’ll need to watch for. Note that the existence of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean your dog’s kidneys are in trouble. Only after visiting a veterinarian will you be able to diagnose your dog.
Symptoms of kidney failure in dogs include (but are certainly not limited to):
- Extreme weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Persistent thirst (drinking water more frequently)
- Lethargy weakness
- Dark (usually brown) urine or blood in the urine
- Oral ulcers
In more severe cases of kidney failure, you may find that your dog’s breath smells like chemicals, he is vomiting at an unusual frequency, and you may even notice that he acts “drunk,” stumbling as he walks.
If you observe any of these behaviors in your pup, please seek veterinary attention for him as soon as possible. These symptoms of renal failure could mean any number of conditions are present, and your vet can help narrow down what ails your dog.
What Causes Renal Failure?
When your dog isn’t feeling well, it’s normal to feel sadness and guilt. That’s your baby, after all! Could you have done something differently to prevent kidney failure? Well, there are several causes of renal failure in dogs, so let’s take a look at some of the most common.
First, old age can cause kidney disease. Obviously, this is not your fault. Just as humans age and their bodies begin to work differently, your dog may experience cell decline which causes kidney problems. Unfortunately, advanced age in dogs is the most common cause of kidney failure.
Sometimes dogs are simply genetically predisposed to kidney failure. Some pups are even born with only one kidney. A single kidney or an underdeveloped organ can still aid your pup in living a full and healthy life. However, you’ll need to monitor your dog medically throughout his life.
Exposure to bacteria and toxins can result in kidney failure. Whether your dog has gone swimming in contaminated water, discovered antifreeze in your garage, eaten chocolate or grapes, or found ibuprofen accidentally left on your floor, his kidney failure is preventable. Be mindful of substances that are toxic to dogs to help prevent this type of renal disease.
Kidney Failure Treatment in Dogs
If your dog has been diagnosed with renal failure, your vet will discuss the appropriate next steps with you. Much of how your dog is treated will depend on whether the renal condition is acute or chronic.
Acute kidney failure appears suddenly, such as in the case of your pup ingesting antifreeze. It can sometimes be reversed if early detection is achieved. Chronic renal failure is long-term and progresses slowly. When treated, it often reemerges and can cause permanent failure.
There are several courses of treatment that may be recommended by your veterinarian. First, your dog will likely be hospitalized and placed on an IV. The intravenous fluids will help replenish fluids, regulate urine production, and improve blood flow to the kidneys. Electrolytes may be re-introduced to assist your dog’s heart and other organ functions.
Secondly, you may have noticed that your dog is vomiting frequently. If this is the case, your dog may receive nutrients via a feeding tube. This, too, requires hospitalization.
Continuous renal replacement therapy is also an option for your dog. This is a procedure similar to dialysis in which toxins are removed from your dog’s bloodstream. While this is not a cure, the procedure can help prolong your dog’s life in a comfortable way.
Last Days of a Dog with Kidney Failure: What to Expect
As mentioned, the prognosis for dogs with kidney failure will vary based on the severity of the condition. Dogs with Stage 1 kidney failure can live over a year from diagnosis. Those with Stage 4 renal failure, unfortunately, have a median prognosis of 14 to 80 days.
Any prognosis that numbers your dog’s days is heartbreaking. But it’s important to understand what to expect in the last days of your dog with kidney failure. You’ll need to know that approximately 60 percent of dogs and cats that develop renal failure ultimately face euthanasia; this is a decision that is made between you and your vet and will depend upon your dog’s unique circumstances.
Once your dog’s kidney failure has progressed, her body will begin to work improperly in other ways. As you know, the health of the kidneys correlates with the health of other organs. The heart, in particular, is very much affected by the kidneys, and other organs will suffer as well.
Kidney failure doesn’t typically cause pain, but your dog will experience discomfort. And, because organ failure can be a result of kidney failure, it may be in your dog’s best interest to put her down.
Euthanasia is never an easy decision. Know that support groups exist if you find that you’re having trouble dealing with the death of your beloved family member. Reaching out to friends and even seeking professional counseling can help you when you feel overcome with grief.
Comforting a Dog with Advanced Kidney Failure
Whether or not you and your veterinarian opt for euthanasia, you’ll want to know how to comfort your dog after he’s been diagnosed with kidney failure. As mentioned, the condition rarely causes pain, but your dog will be in discomfort at times. Additionally, long trips to the vet or animal hospital for treatment will impact your dog’s routine and sense of security.
The most important step you can take to ensure the comfort of your dog is to follow his lead. Some dogs will want to be left alone when they’re not feeling well while others may want nothing but your love, affection, and cuddles. Dogs that are in pain or are uncomfortable may be more likely to get “snippy,” even with their favorite humans. Respect your dog’s space if he needs to be left alone.
If your pet will be making frequent trips to the vet, ensure that you pack a “hospital bag.” Include a few of his favorite toys, and pack a t-shirt that smells like you. This will help comfort your pup while he’s away, giving him something familiar to remind him of home while he undergoes treatment. Do not bring treats, snacks, or food. Your vet will closely monitor your dog’s diet.
Assistance with In-Home Care
Trips to the vet are tedious for you and stressful for your dog. For that reason, resources exist that will help your dog stay comfortable in his last days with kidney failure. Lap of Love is one such organization; the vets and caregivers will come to your home to administer treatment to your dog.
Organizations that provide hospice care to dogs will offer a range of services. Some will assist you in determining whether your dog’s quality of life is suffering. Some offer licensed individuals who can help develop an appropriate diet for your dog. Still, others will arrange for in-home euthanasia, allowing your dog to remain in a familiar and loving place in his final moments.
The cost of hospice for your dog will vary, and in some cases, pet insurance will cover a portion of this care. An internet search for this type of care will give you a better idea of what to expect when caring for your dog in his last days with kidney failure.
Should you find yourself in a position to require this type of care for your pup, you’ll need to consider whether the benefits outweigh the costs. Know that, in addition, to experience caring for animals, your hospice professionals also have experience in helping humans navigate the loss of your pet. If you can financially cover the costs, in-home hospice provides a great deal of invaluable support.
Frequently Asked Questions
The final signs of kidney failure in dogs are extreme weight loss, frequent urination, persistent thirst, lethargy, dark urine or blood in the urine, and oral ulcers.
The final stage of kidney failure in dogs is painful or at least discomforting.
A dog will lose control of its bladder and bowels when it dies.
Conclusion for “Last Days of Dog with Kidney Failure – What to Expect”
Dogs can experience renal failure for a number of reasons. Old age, exposure to toxins, and genetic predisposition are just a few of those reasons.
Whether your dog has been diagnosed with renal disease or you are just curious about the condition, it’s important to know what to expect during a dog’s last days with kidney failure.
The prognosis for this disease can be bleak. Remember that while it’s important to care for your dog as he experiences renal failure, you’ll also need to care for yourself. Seek out a support system. The death of a pet will cause grief, and it will be critical to your own well-being.
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Learn more about dogs’ kidney health by watching “Kidney Failure In Dogs | Everything You NEED To Know | Veterinarian Explains | Dogtor Pete” down below:
Garrett loves animals and is a huge advocate for all Doodle dog breeds. He owns his own Goldendoodle named Kona. In addition, he volunteers at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, where he fosters dogs and helps animals. Garrett enjoys writing about Doodles and believes that dogs can teach humans more about how to live than humans can teach a dog.
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