Kidney failure

What are kidney problems?

You can speak of kidneys problems when the kidneys have a reduced function during a shorter or longer period. A kidney is well able to compensate for a reduced kidney function. In most cases, your pet doesn’t show any symptoms. Only when 75% or more of the kidney function is lost, there is insufficient kidney function or renal insufficiency/renal failure. In this case, your pet will develop symptoms.

How do kidneys work?

The main function of the kidneys is the filter function.  Kidneys filter the blood and thereby clear the blood from waste products. In addition, the kidneys regulate the fluid, electrolyte and mineral balance in the body. Finally, the kidneys are also involved in the production of some hormones (e.g. erythropoietin or EPO) and in controlling blood pressure and PH value of the blood. When the kidney function is insufficient, waste products and fluids will accumulate. Besides that, the blood pressure will get disrupted and anaemia can occur as a result of a reduced production of the hormone EPO.

How often do kidney problems occur?

Kidney problems occur regularly in dogs, especially in older dogs. 16% of the cats aged 15 years or older, have kidney problems.

What are the most important causes of kidney problems?
There are many causes of a reduced kidney function. These causes can be divided in causes inside the kidneys and causes outside the kidneys.

Causes inside the kidneys:

  • Infections of the kidneys and urinary tract
  • Congenital and hereditary abnormalities of the kidneys (e.g. amyloidosis, polycystic kidney disease (PKD), abnormal developed kidneys)
  • Tumours
  • Immune diseases
  • Kidney stones

Causes inside the kidneys:

  • Dehydration
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Infections/inflammations in other parts of the body (e.g. teeth or uterus)
  • Urethra obstruction (obstruction of the urethra by bladder stones or urine crystals)
  • Poisonings

What are the symptoms with kidney problems?

The most common symptoms with kidney problems are excessive drinking and urination. With an insufficient function, the kidneys can no longer concentrate the urine properly. In order to remove waste products as much as possible, the kidneys will produce a lot of watery urine. Your pet will drink a lot to compensate this loss of fluids. However, in some cases of acute renal failure it is possible that your pets doesn’t produce any urine at all. The accumulation of waste products as urea and creatinine results in symptoms as reduced appetite, nausea and vomiting. Sometimes ulcerations in the oral cavity can be seen. In severe kidneys problems, anaemia can develop by the reduced production of the hormone EPO.  Finally, animals with kidney problems often have a reduced overall condition with weight loss, muscle loss and a dull coat.

What can I do if my pet has kidney problems?

When you suspect your pet having kidney problems, we always advise to go to your veterinarian. Depending on the severity of the kidney problem it can be necessary to treat your pet with medication or an infusion. In addition, you can support your pet with the following measures:

  • Make sure that your pet drinks enough to prevent dehydration.
  • Kidney diet. Waste products as urea and creatinine accumulate in an animal with an insufficient kidney function. By giving a kidney diet with adequate protein and phosphate content, you support the kidneys as much as possible.
  • Should a kidney diet work insufficient to lower the phosphate concentration of the blood, then you can consider to use phosphate binders such as Ipakitine.
  • If your pet with kidney problems also has protein loss in the urine, you can treat your him/her with ACE inhibitors (Fortekor) or Semintra.