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Kidney failure in dogs

Kidney failure is defined by the kidneys' inability to effectively remove waste from blood. This waste builds up and causes signs of uremic poisoning. Kidney failure can occur suddenly (acute) or gradually over time.

Causes of kidney failure

  • Obstruction of the urinary tract such as a kidney stone

  • Lyme disease

  • Poisoning (such as antifreeze ingestion, getting into human medications, or lily plant ingestion for cats)

  • Leptospirosis

  • Heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure, which reduce blood flow to the kidneys

  • Dehydration

Signs of kidney problems

  • Increased thirst/drinking

  • Increased urination

  • "Accidents" in the house due to increased frequency of urination

  • Lack of urination

  • Decreased appetite

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

Uremia is a condition that may develop due to kidney failure. When the kidneys cannot function properly, the result is a build-up of chemical waste such as ammonia, nitrogen, and acids in the blood and tissues. Signs of uremia include depression, loss of appetite, weight loss, brownish appearance to the tongue, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, the dog may fall into a coma.


Dialysis is a type of therapy that mimics the filtering system of the kidneys and there are two types of dialysis therapies:

  • Peritoneal dialysis is used for short-term kidney problems such as antifreeze poisoning, by sending fluid into the abdomen via a catheter which absorbs and removes toxins.

  • Hemodialysis is only available at a few locations across the country because it is highly specialized and expensive. It entails circulating the dog's blood through a machine with filters to mimic the filtering of a healthy kidney.

Kidney transplant may be necessary for dogs with terminal kidney failure and is only available at a few referral centers, but is becoming more common.
If you suspect your dog may be experiencing kidney problems, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.


"Kidney Failure in Dogs." Dog Kidney Failure: Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Treatments, and Dialysis. WebMD, n.d. Web. 05 Sept. 2013.