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Kidney Failure in Dogs

Treating Kidney Failure continued...

Restricting phosphorus intake is agreed upon by all. Medications to lower phosphorus levels may be required along with dietary adjustments.

It is extremely important to provide fresh water at all times. The dog must be able to take in enough water to compensate for her large urine output. Some dogs will need occasional boosts to their fluid intake. This can be done by giving subcutaneous (known as sub-Q or SQ) fluids. With most dogs, their owners can learn how to do this at home. In the later stages of kidney failure, dogs may need sub-Q fluids daily.

Some types of kidney failure are acute, and are mild enough that if the dog is well supported medically, there will be a complete recovery. More commonly, dogs will have at least some renal function deficit and need a change in care for the rest of their lives. With chronic renal failure, there is no cure; the disease must be controlled as well as possible for the rest of the dog’s life.


Dialysis describes two therapies that try to duplicate the filtering tasks of the kidneys. In peritoneal dialysis, special fluid is put into the abdomen using a catheter. The fluid then washes tissues and absorbs toxins from the body across tissue barriers. After a set period of time, the fluid is removed through the same catheter, taking the toxins out with it. This technique has been used in veterinary referral centers for short-term kidney problems such as antifreeze poisonings.

Hemodialysis is the second technique. This therapy is only available at a few referral centers across the country, because the equipment is expensive and must be specially designed to work with dogs. The dog’s blood is circulated through a machine with filters that tries to duplicate the filtering tasks of a healthy kidney.

Kidney Transplant

Another option for dogs with terminal kidney failure is to consider a kidney transplant. Kidney transplants are only done a few veterinary referral centers, but are becoming more common. As with human transplant patients, drugs must be given post-transplant to prevent organ rejection. These drugs are quite expensive and must be carefully calibrated to minimize side effects.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"


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