Canine Kidneys and Renal Disease
March is National Kidney Month. While we associate National Kidney Month with humans, it is important to remember that our pets have kidneys as well. For March, we will focus on canine renal health, and for April, we will look at feline renal health. For this article, will do a review of the kidneys and their functions in dogs, look at signs and symptoms of acute and chronic kidney failure, and discuss what you can do about it.
The kidneys are two small organs that are on either side of spine about midway. They filter the dog’s blood to remove wastes. Blood passes through the millions of nephrons that take in blood with waste products; the waste products are filtered out by the glomerulus, passed through tubules and sent through the ureters to the bladder for removal, while the filtered blood is sent back to the rest of the body. Kidneys also control blood pressure by causing arteries and veins to constrict and increasing circulating blood volume. The kidneys also aid in calcium metabolism and control the amount of calcium in the blood and does similar for phosphorous. Finally, the waste products removed from kidneys are the electrolytes sodium, potassium, chloride and bicarbonate. Creatinine wastes from the muscles are also removed. Kidneys maintain electrolyte balance (homeostasis) despite changes in hydration. Failure of the kidneys to operate correctly can be acute or chronic.
Kidney failure in dogs can have multiple effects on your pet’s health due to the kidney malfunctioning. Acute failure is often due to such events as poisoning, heat stroke, or even Leptospirosis infection. Keep dogs away from toxins such as antifreeze, and keep dogs well-hydrated and out of severe heat to prevent heat stroke. If you are concerned about leptospirosis infections, talk with your vet on whether the vaccine is appropriate for your pet. Chronic renal failure happens over time and for different reasons. Whether acute or chronic, be on the look out for these signs of renal failure: change in water and urinated intake, depression and listlessness, anorexia, halitosis and mouth ulcers, vomiting and stumbling/disorientation. If you notice these signs take your dog to a veterinarian immediately.
For dogs, chronic renal failure is often related to dental disease. This means that chronic renal failure can sometimes be prevented. Keep your dog’s teeth clean and get your dog’s teeth cleaned by a veterinarian regularly. Also have your dog’s blood work checked once a year, or twice a year, especially for older pets. Certain breeds are can be predisposed to chronic renal failure. These include Samoyeds, Bull terriers, Cairn Terriers, German Shepherds, English Cocker Spaniels, and Shar Peis. Be aware of the signs of renal failure and get blood work done by your veterinarian if you suspect your dog may be experiences renal failure. If your dog does have chronic renal failure, your veterinarian can recommend diets and medications/supplements to help manage your pet’s health.
In conclusion, the kidneys play several vital roles in your dog’s day-to-day health. Be sure to talk with your vet about measures to prevent acute failure from toxins and regular exams and blood work to check for chronic renal issues.