As dog owners, it is our utmost priority to take care of their health. If you recently received your dog’s blood reports, you may be wondering what BUN levels mean and what they should be for healthy dogs.
BUN levels indicate blood urea nitrogen. Normal BUN levels in dogs rarely exceed 25 to 30 ml/dL. If your dog has a higher BUN level, that can be indicative of any one of several problems and must be addressed immediately.
Below, we’ll explain these and other values in your dog’s blood reports.
Before you read this guide, “What Are the Normal BUN Levels in Dogs,” check out: Best Dog Allergy Test – Top 5 Picks! (2023) and Wisdom Panel vs Embark Review: In-Depth Analysis! (2023).
What Is BUN?
Blood urea nitrogen, or BUN, is a marker for the total amount of urea in the blood.
The body produces urea as a waste product when the liver breaks down proteins, and it is typically flushed out of the body via the kidneys. So, for the body to keep a regular level of urea in the blood, both the liver and the kidneys need to be functioning effectively at all times.
In healthy dogs, the BUN level is typically assessed during routine checkups or pre-surgical screening as it is an integral part of a blood test known as a chemical panel.
The results of this test are typically interpreted alongside additional blood tests designed to detect kidney and liver problems. Your veterinarian may consider testing your pet’s BUN level if you notice any of the following symptoms, as many diseases can affect this parameter:
How Do You Check the BUN Level?
Your veterinarian will need a blood sample from your dog to check its BUN level. This process often only takes a short amount of time; if your dog is cooperative, it might only take a few seconds.
Your veterinarian team may choose to use a muzzle, a towel, or another restraint for dogs who are afraid or behaving inappropriately.
For animals with extremely dense fur, it’s important to shave the area where blood will be extracted. The hair will eventually grow back, and doing so is typically an effective technique to locate the vein.
Some clinics have their own blood analysis equipment, which allows them to check the BUN level right in the waiting room and get the findings the same day. Other clinics need to send the blood sample to a third-party lab. When using an external laboratory, results are often ready in one to two days.
It is important to inform your vet of any medications or supplements your dog is taking, as these may affect the BUN level in the blood.
What Does the BUN Level Tell You?
Changes in the BUN level are often connected with kidney illness or poor liver function. That said, the BUN level can be affected by a wide variety of other variables as well.
For instance, several antibiotics have been linked to an increase in this parameter. Dehydration and gastrointestinal bleeding are two medical problems that can impact the BUN level.
Problems may appear if the BUN level is abnormally low or high. A high BUN level may indicate one or more of the following medical issues:
- Liver function decline
- Kidney disease
- Kidney failure
- Urinary retention
- Hemorrhage (bleeding) in the stomach or intestines
- Severe burns or infections
Your veterinarian will consider the abnormal BUN level in the context of other relevant information about your dog before deciding whether or not to offer additional diagnostic testing.
X-rays, further blood testing, and urinalysis (a screening test to examine components in the urine) may be necessary. Your veterinarian may prescribe medicine or suggest other treatment options for your dog.
Does Checking the BUN Level Pose Any Dangers?
The potential risks of checking your dog’s BUN level are minimal.
In a professional setting, drawing blood from a dog takes only a few seconds, and your veterinarian will take all necessary safety measures to protect your pet.
There is no danger because the rest of the procedure will take place at the vet’s office or a diagnostic lab.
What Is the Normal BUN Level in Dogs?
BUN values in healthy dogs rarely go above 25 to 30 mg/dL.
In contrast, BUN levels of more than 90 mg/dL are common in dogs that have renal failure.
Creatinine levels in healthy dogs are typically below 1.0 mg/dL; however, dogs with kidney problems can have creatinine levels that are as high as over 8 mg/dL.
Possible Causes of a High BUN in Your Dog
There could be several factors at play if your pet has a BUN that is above average. However, renal failure is the most common cause of increased BUN levels in dogs. This condition is known as “renal elevation.”
When a cat or dog’s kidneys lose around two-thirds of their filtering function, the blood urea nitrogen level rises. Up until that moment, your pet will likely carry on as if nothing is wrong, and it will simply make up for its diminished kidney capacity by drinking and urinating more frequently.
BUN levels in dogs can occasionally rise for reasons other than obvious renal disease, but this occurs far less frequently. This condition is referred to as “pre-renal elevation.” Pre-renal high BUN results from conditions that allow significant fluid loss from your dog’s circulatory system.
Extreme heat exposure can cause dehydration, as can severe burns, persistent bleeding, a high body temperature, vomiting, or diarrhea. As with humans, your dog’s BUN may also increase if they take a diuretic that causes dehydration.
ACE inhibitors, a class of drugs used to treat heart disease, occasionally impair the kidneys’ capacity to filter blood. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used to treat pain and arthritis can sometimes increase blood urea nitrogen, perhaps also because they can decrease blood flow through the kidneys.
Having trouble passing pee can also cause your pet’s BUN to rise, as can the presence of a stone, tumor, or neurogenic bladder.
Treating the underlying problems is the most effective strategy to reduce the BUN. In cases of kidney disease or dehydration, fluid administration is often effective in reducing BUN levels. Antacids and anti-inflammatory drugs are typically helpful in reducing the risk of intestinal ulcerations and bleeding.
Don’t Forget to Fast
If the BUN is high and there is reason to believe that it is due to a recent meal, your vet will advise taking a second blood sample from the dog after a fasting period of 12 hours before the test.
If your dog needs blood work done, a helpful hint is to make sure they haven’t eaten for at least 12 hours beforehand. This can prevent issues that are directly tied to your pet’s diet and the time of the test.
Understanding Other Biochemical Values
Besides BUN levels, there are other values in your dog’s blood reports that you may want to be informed about. These can help you get an overview of your dog’s internal functioning.
Glucose is the final product of the metabolic process that takes place during the breakdown of carbohydrates, and it’s the body’s major source of energy. Stress, Cushing’s disease, diabetes, pancreatitis, and certain drugs can all cause elevated glucose levels.
Liver illness, insulin overdose, severe bacterial infection, hypothyroidism, and Addison’s disease are all conditions that might cause low levels. For unknown reasons, toy-breed puppies often suffer from hypoglycemia.
Creatinine is a waste product of phosphocreatine metabolism and plays a key role in muscle contractions. Increased levels point to kidney disease or failure, dehydration, shock, the consumption of specific toxins, poor renal circulation, or urine blockage. Liver disease or hunger can lead to low levels.
Sodium, in conjunction with potassium, plays a crucial role in preserving healthy muscle and nerve function. It is also an essential electrolyte for the proper functioning of the body as a whole.
Dehydration, diabetes insipidus, Cushing’s disease, and excessive salt consumption are causes of elevated levels. Anemia, severe diarrhea, vomiting, Addison’s disease, hypothyroidism, and metabolic acidosis all result in low levels.
Potassium, in conjunction with salt, plays a crucial role in ensuring proper muscle and nerve function. An elevated level may be a symptom of diabetes, poisoning, urinary blockage, acute kidney failure, muscular injury, or Addison’s disease.
Conditions such as diarrhea, vomiting, Cushing’s syndrome, diabetes, diuretic overuse, and starvation all contribute to low levels.
Chloride combines with hydrogen to generate hydrochloric acid, which aids digestion in the stomach and is essential for maintaining the blood’s acid-base balance. Dehydration, metabolic acidosis, Addison’s disease, and renal disease can cause elevated levels. Vomiting and metabolic alkalosis cause levels to drop.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a metabolic waste product that serves as an indicator of the body’s acid-base balance. In addition to renal failure, vomiting, dehydration, and the misuse of diuretics can contribute to abnormally high levels.
Low levels are indicative of a fundamental blood condition and can result from malnutrition, kidney failure (which can also cause acidosis), diarrhea, or impaired liver function.
Calcium is a mineral with many bodily functions. It’s what gives structure to your skeleton, your teeth, and your muscles. Cancer, Addison’s illness, an overabundance of vitamin D, or an overactive parathyroid gland can cause elevated calcium levels.
Eclampsia, severe pancreatitis, nutritional imbalance, intestinal absorption issues, low intact vitamin D, Cushing’s disease, and specific toxin ingestions are associated with low levels.
Phosphorus is often paired with calcium. It’s a must-have for proper metabolism. Extremely high values point to kidney disease, nutritional imbalance, vitamin D overdose, or serious tissue injuries.
Inadequate levels are associated with malnutrition, malignancy, an insulin overdose, diabetes, eclampsia, and a hyperactive parathyroid gland.
Total protein (TP) is a vital component utilized by every cell in the body. Extremely high concentrations are associated with dehydration, inflammation, persistent infection, and some forms of malignancy.
Conditions such as poor intestinal absorption, liver illness, Addison’s disease, severe burns, and kidney losses all contribute to low levels.
Albumin is the most abundant protein in the body. It’s vital for keeping blood pressure in check and transporting numerous substances through the circulatory system.
An elevated level suggests dehydration. Low levels are an indicator of chronic inflammation, liver disease, kidney disease, malnourishment, or blood loss.
Bilirubin is a pigment found in bile and is the final product of the breakdown of red blood cells. Increased levels are associated with jaundice and may be the result of bile duct or gall bladder obstruction, liver illness, or the rapid breakdown of red blood cells. Low concentrations have little clinical significance.
Cholesterol is an essential component in the production of several different hormones. The high levels are not nearly as significant in dogs as they are in people. Liver illness, hunger, kidney disease, Cushing’s syndrome, pancreatitis, diabetes, and hypothyroidism are associated with low levels.
Triglycerides play a crucial role in fat storage and fatty acid release. There is evidence linking high levels to seizures in Schnauzers. Low levels are indicative of starvation or nutritional deficiency.
ALT is typically connected with the liver and plays a significant role in nitrogen metabolism. Liver damage, toxin ingestion, Cushing’s disease, and other metabolic diseases are all indicators of elevated levels.
Frequently Asked Questions
A dog with a BUN level of 25 to 30 mg/dL might suggest kidney failure or a similar issue.
A healthy dog should have a creatinine level of 1.4mg/dL or lower.
Dogs with serious kidney problems may lose weight, vomit, stumble, or noticeably change the amount of water they drink or the amount they urinate.
Conclusion for “What Are the Normal BUN Levels in Dogs”
It’s normal to want to be informed about your dog’s health. It doesn’t hurt to know more about what those values in your dog’s blood reports mean either. However, any abnormally high or low values will be addressed by a qualified veterinarian since, as we’ve shown, there are many possible root causes.
If you find this guide, “What Are the Normal BUN Levels in Dogs,” helpful, check out:
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- When to Euthanize a Dog for Kidney Failure (2023)
Learn more 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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