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
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
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
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.