Knowing the signs a dog is dying from kidney failure could be the difference between your dog enjoying a long, comfortable life and suffering a slow, painful death.
Chronic kidney failure in dogs, which often occurs due to genetic malformations and old age, happens slowly over time. Acute kidney failure, on the other hand, happens quickly within a matter of days and occurs when a dog ingests a toxin. Toxins can be chemicals like antifreeze, household cleaners, or bad food.
According to animal health statistics, approximately 60% of dogs with kidney failure either die naturally or are humanely euthanized.
Pet owners who manage to spot canine kidney failure early often see their pups live for many years. Unfortunately, kidney failure at an advanced stage means your dog does not have much longer to live.
So, what signs indicate a dog could be dying of kidney failure and how can you make their life as comfortable and bearable as possible during their final days? In this article we will focus on 4 main things:
- How to help a dog with kidney failure
- Signs a dog is dying from kidney failure
- How to prevent kidney failure in dogs
- How last days of dog with kidney failure looks like
Signs a Dog is Dying From Kidney Failure
Below are the most notable symptoms your dog is dying from kidney failure.
The primary roles of the kidney include eliminating waste, maintaining the body’s fluid balance, keeping the blood pressure in check, and secreting a hormone to aid in the production of red blood cells.
When kidneys are not functioning probably, multiple organs will not only suffer but also their ability to effectively filter waste will be reduced. This leads to a buildup of waste products in the body.
The buildup of waste produces a distinctive ammonia smell that’s especially apparent on their breath. Bad breath is an indication the disease is at an advanced stage and lots of toxins have build up in the body.
Did your pup experience somewhat of accidental urination or displayed any signs of inappropriate urination? Most pet owners overlook inappropriate urination thinking it’s a minor behavioral issue yet in most cases it’s a medical problem.
A dog suffering from chronic kidney failure will lack voluntary control of urination, which means it can urinate without having any control over the act.
3. Reduced urine amount
Another sign a dog is dying from kidney failure is a sharp increase in the amount of urine it produces. This happens when the condition is at an advanced stage and urinating becomes very difficult and painful.
In some cases, a dog can even stop producing urine altogether, which can be a lot scarier for any pet owner.
4. Severe Dehydration
A dog suffering from chronic kidney failure will also experience dehydration. Despite having increased thirst and drinking more water, the fact that they experience increased urination and incontinence will leave them dehydrated.
5. Increased thirst & urination
As the kidneys struggle to filter the toxins, urine production will increase in an attempt to get rid of as much waste as possible. As a result, the dog will display signs of increased thirst and will drink water more often.
You will notice your dog making frequent trips to the water bowl or that you have to refill their water bowl more often than usual. The increased water intake will also play a role in your pup needing to urinate more than usual.
6. Fatigue and lethargy
The dog will also spend most of their day and night sleeping and will display little interest in moving around due to a lack of energy.
7. Oral ulcers
The buildup of waste products in the dog’s body will lead to uremia, which in turn causes mouth ulcers. Oral ulcers are extremely painful and will often affect the dog’s ability to enjoy its food. The dog’s gums will also be pale and dry.
8. Decreased appetite and weight loss
As the condition worsens, the dog will gradually lose interest in food and eventually start losing weight. The dog will also experience a gradual loss of fat and muscle mass, which can cause emaciation.
9. Difficulty breathing
Difficulty breathing and a slow heart rate are also signs a dog is dying from kidney failure. The dog will have problems breathing normally and the heart rate will slow down during the final stages of kidney failure.
10. Loss of balance & coordination
The dog will appear clumsy and unsteady when on his feet. He will also display signs of disorientation such as seeming confused and unaware of what’s going on in his surroundings.
11. Trembling & shaking
This is another symptom that happens in the final stage of kidney failure. The dog will experience body tremors or episodes of shaking.
When a dog dying from kidney failure starts experiencing periodic seizures, it’s a clear indication that your time with him is really limited.
13. Bloodshot eyes
A dog suffering from chronic kidney failure will also have bloodshot eyes where the whites of the eyes will appear red like blood.
Watch this video about kidney failure in dogs to better understand how the kidney functions and the signs to look out for. Video courtesy: Dogtor Pete.
How to Help a Dog With Kidney Failure
There are many things you can do to help a dog with kidney failure to be as comfortable as possible during the final days of his life. Ways you can help include:
1. Provide warmth, quiet, and comfort
Make sure your dog’s resting or sleeping area is quiet, peaceful, warm, and comfortable with minimum disturbance. Make sure they also get their favorite toys and bedding to keep them engaged and warm.
2. Protect him from other pets
During the final stages of kidney failure, the sick dog will be disinterested in social interactions with other dogs due to pain and discomfort. Making sure they are not kept together with overly aggressive pets is important.
In regards to interactions with people and children, teach them to be gentle with the dog and mindful of their health condition.
3. Provide clean bedding
You should also ensure the dog’s bedding are clean and where they sleep or spend most of their time is also clean and dry. This keeps them happy and reduces the risks of contracting infections that could make their health worse.
4. Groom your dog regularly
Keeping your dog clean and well-kempt should be a priority. Brush his fur for dry cleaning or clean the fur with a sponge bath solution of hypoallergenic pet shampoo.
5. Spend quality time with your dog
Another amazing way to help a dog with kidney failure is by spending quality time together. Gently petting your dog to soothe him and talking to him when you’re together might seem like little tasks but the dog needs all the comfort gestures he can get.
6. Provide appropriate diet
A dog suffering from kidney failure should be fed low-protein dog food. If you’re not sure about appropriate food for your dog, we recommend seeking the help of your local veterinarian.
Last Days of Dog With Kidney Failure
Kidney failure in dogs happens in four stages. The fourth stage usually lasts between three months and slightly over a year depending on many factors including the dog’s age and overall health condition.
The last days of a dog with kidney failure will be characterized by symptoms such as difficulty breathing, incontinence, periodic seizures, trembling & shaking, loss of balance & coordination, drastic weight loss, frequent vomiting & diarrhea, lethargy & fatigue, depression, and severe dehydration.
Treatment plans during stage-4 of kidney failure may include dialysis, intravenous therapy, and pain medications. The veterinarian may recommend euthanasia if your dog is suffering a lot, unresponsive to pain management medications, or too weak to handle the necessary life-sustaining treatments.
How To Prevent Kidney Failure in Dogs
There are a few things pet owners can do to prevent kidney diseases in dogs.
Chronic Renal Failure
Considering that this disease mainly occurs due to genetic malformations and old age, there is not much you can do about it. It is highly recommended to make sure your dog has frequent veterinary checkups to detect any kidney disease early enough. It is also advisable to keep your dog physically fit at all times.
Acute Renal Failure
Acute kidney failure is preventable through vaccinations, clearing toxins around the house or outside your compound, minding what kind of human foods your dog eats, and keeping all human medicines out of your dog’s reach.
Kidney failure is a fatal disease that affects many dogs. While chronic kidney failure can be beyond our control, there are many measures you can take to prevent acute kidney failure.