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Renal Disease: Keeping an Eye on Kidney Function

CHAH Updates

Symptoms of Renal disease in pets may go unnoticed early in the disease process. Prior to being able to see the signs, substantial kidney damage has already occurred. Typically once signs of kidney disease are noticed in pets,  about 75% of kidney function has already been lost.


Unkempt Coat 

Increased Thirst 

Increased Urination– A great misconception is because the pet is producing large amounts of urine, the kidneys are working well; the exact opposite is actually true. The job of a kidney is to maintain a proper water balance in the body; it will allow less water out when we are dehydrated, and allow more out when we are overhydrated. Pets with renal disease have kidneys that cannot concentrate their urine properly, allowing too much water to be released.

Weight Loss – Nausea, reduced appetite and changes in hormonal and metabolic factors due to the build-up of waste products in the blood are the most common causes. Weight loss is not seen in all patients.

Bad Breath – Due to the built up toxins in the blood they can develop very bad smelling breath, despite oral hygiene practices.



Infections – Bacterial, fungal, parasitic or viral infections


Mineralization – This can be due to improper nutrition, most commonly improperly balanced home cooked or RAW diets.

Congenital abnormalities 

Immune Mediated diseasesGroup of conditions that result from abnormal activity of the immune cells, overreacting or attacking to the body, displaying an extreme inflammatory response or loss of the ability to recognize and fight against tumor cells.

Toxins – Various things are a toxic risk to pets and several can cause renal disease.  A few common ones are: Anti-freeze, grapes, rattlesnake bites and naproxen. 


Routine lab work is recommended at least once a year as  it can help detect renal issues early on.  Other tests  that can help with detection are blood pressure readings, radiographs and ultrasound. Ultrasound is very helpful in identifying mineralization of the kidney and can give an overall impression of the size of the kidney. 

Treatment for renal disease is dependent upon the stage and your pet’s overall health.  The cause will be identified, if possible, and treated.  Then a long term plan to manage the renal disease will be tailored to your pet.   Early stages can often be managed with just diet change, while the  more severe cases will often need medicinal management as well.

Renal disease is no longer the death sentence it once used to be.  Medical intervention can greatly increase and improve your pet’s quality of life. If your pet is exhibiting any of the symptoms above please bring them in and have them checked out. 

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