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Essential Guide to Kidney Disease

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Vets know very well that, just because a pet may look relatively healthy, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are. One of the most frequent and serious problems pets can develop is an issue with their kidneys.

Why are the kidneys so important?

The kidneys work to filter the blood and remove poisonous by-products. They can also expel excess water from the body, or make sure urine is more concentrated to retain water in the body. Simply put: they’re clever and very vital things!

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What happens when they fail?

As pets age, their kidneys can no longer regulate as effectively as they once did, meaning that certain salts and toxins can start to build up in the pet’s body. Because the kidneys are also in charge of controlling the levels of hormones, which affect the expansion or contraction of blood vessels and those which control the production of red blood cells, reduced kidney function can cause unexpected changes in blood pressure and anaemia.

It’s important to distinguish between chronic and acute kidney failure. Chronic failure often occurs in older animals- particularly cats- with organ degradation an inevitable part of the aging process. It can take years to develop but, by the time you are aware your pet has a problem, the situation is irreversible. If a pet suffers from acute kidney failure, this is more likely to be the result of poisoning, such as ingesting antifreeze. In this latter case, it will be very evident that your pet is unwell, but for chronic cases your pet may not display symptoms until the problem is advanced.

What symptoms might I see if my pet has a kidney problem?

  • Drinking lots
  • Urinating more
  • Poor appetite
  • Seems tired and lethargic
  • Unusual breath odour
  • Vomiting or retching

Did you know? It is possible to lose 75% of kidney function before becoming aware that your pet may have a problem.


Diagnosing a kidney problem:

As the symptoms could be down to any number of possible conditions other than kidney problems (eg. diabetes), it is necessary for us to perform diagnostic tests to make an accurate diagnosis. This will normally involve both urine and blood testing.

As with many health conditions, it’s older pets who are more prone to developing kidney issues. This is why at Medivet we offer FREE urine testing for all cats and dogs over 8 years old when they come in for their annual health check and booster vaccination. Please speak to a member of staff regarding the best way of collecting this urine sample when you book your appointment.

What can you do for a pet with kidney problems?

There’s no long-term cure for a kidney issue. Instead, we will try to diagnose the problem as quickly as possible so we can do our best to minimise the symptoms and slow down the progression of the damage.

This normally entails medication, as well as a special diet.  With prompt diagnosis and regular treatment of this nature, it is possible for affected pets to live longer, happier lives.

It is important to note that there is no general prognosis for pets with kidney disease. Their life expectancy will depend on a whole host of factors, including their age, how progressed the disease is and any other underlying health conditions. If your pet is diagnosed with a kidney problem, we will work with you to devise and individual treatment plan for them.


If any of the symptoms mentioned in this article sound familiar, then your pet may have a health problem. Give your local Medivet practice a call for advice or to book an appointment for this or anything else. Find your local Medivet by using our online practice finder.

Posted May 21, 2014 in Pet Care Advice

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