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Recognizing the Signs of Kidney Failure in Dogs and Cats

The most common signs of kidney failure in dogs and cats include an increase in thirst, increase in urine volume, vomiting, diarrhea and lack of appetite.

Kidney failure is one of the most commonly encountered conditions seen in older dogs and cats but it can occur in animals of all ages.

There are many things that can cause the kidneys to fail. These include aging changes within the kidneys, toxins or poisons that affect the kidneys, infectious diseases that attack the kidneys, congenital abnormalities within the kidneys, injury and/or blood loss, and many other conditions.

The Basics of Canine or Feline Kidney Failure

In the normal, healthy dog and cat, one of the major functions of the kidneys is to filter out waste products from the blood. Once these products are filtered, they are eliminated from the body through the urine.

In a dog or cat with damaged kidneys or kidneys which are not functioning properly, the waste products that would normally be filtered by the kidneys start to build up in the blood stream instead. This causes a condition known as uremia.

Both canine and feline kidney failure may be acute (occurring suddenly) or chronic (lasting for a longer time period). Both forms can be quite serious and can be fatal. Acute kidney failure can become chronic kidney disease as well.

Most Common Signs of Kidney Failure in the Dog or Cat

The earliest symptoms of kidney failure are likely to be reasonably non-specific. Signs commonly encountered in cats and dogs with kidney failure include a decrease in appetite or absence of appetite, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, a increase in thirst and an increase in the volume of urine produced. The increase in urine produced may cause the pet to have urinary accidents in the home and/or more frequent trips outdoors or to the litter box.

A physical examination of the dog or cat with kidney failure may reveal loss of weight, especially if the condition has been more chronic. Dehydration is a frequent complication of kidney disease and correcting this is an important part of the treatment of the disease. Especially in more severe cases, the body temperature of the pet may be below normal as well.

As the kidney failure progresses and waste products continue to build up in the blood stream, the volume of urine production may actually begin to decline and the dog or cat may fail to produce any urine in the latter stages of kidney failure. In addition, the toxic waste products resulting from failure of the kidneys will eventually affect the cardiovascular system, the nervous system and other body organs. Symptoms that may be experienced by dogs and cats with more advanced kidney failure include seizures, high blood pressure, blindness (as a result of high blood pressure), excessive bruising, difficulty breathing (caused by fluid build-up within the lungs) and abnormalities in the heart rate and rhythm.

Prognosis for Dogs and Cats with Kidney Failure

The prognosis for dogs and cats suffering from kidney failure depends on many factors. The cause of the kidney failure, whether the disease is acute or chronic, the severity of disease and the individual physical condition of the dog or cat all play a role in determining whether the prognosis is favorable or not.

There are a number of treatments that can be used to halt or slow the progress of canine or feline kidney failure. Treatments for dogs and cats with acute kidney failure may differ somewhat from the treatments recommended for chronic kidney failure.

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