At birth, dogs normally have two kidneys, just like humans do. These kidneys are located in their abdominal cavity, specifically below their backbone and in between their last rib and spine.

Named after kidney beans because of their size and shape, it measures just 2-5.3cm (for small dogs) and up to 6.6 - 9.3 cm (for big dogs). While the kidneys may be small, they have many functions within their microscopic structures. Among the most vital structures is called the nephron, which comprises the renal tubule and renal corpuscle, which work hand in hand to help the kidney perform its plethora of functions.

Each kidney is composed of 1 million nephrons once a dog is born. As this number may decrease over time, it can partly contribute to kidney issues. The reason for this is that nephrons function as a filtration system that eliminates toxins and other substances that the body doesn’t need while retaining the substances that it does need.

Yes, the kidneys may be small, but they have numerous functions that are important in maintaining good health and keeping a dog alive. This is why when the kidneys aren’t functioning well, a dog’s health suffers.


  1. Kidney Functions
  2. What are the Most Common Kidney Issues in Dogs?
  3. Chronic Kidney Disease
  4. 2 Forms of Kidney Disease
  5. What is Renal Failure in Dogs?
  6. Symptoms of Kidney Disease
  7. How Chronic Kidney Disease is Diagnosed
  8. Treatment and Prevention
  9. Emergency Fund
  10. FAQ

Kidney Functions

  1. They eliminate toxins found in the blood and remove them through the production of urine.
  2. They help regulate blood pressure as well as the acidity level of blood.
  3. They prevent the body from losing water unnecessarily.
  4. They help maintain a healthy metabolism.
  5. They help balance the absorption of important minerals, including potassium and sodium.

Kidney disorder or renal disease is any condition where the kidney isn’t functioning well, and the severity of which may vary. This also means that there is damage, but functional tissue is still present. On the other hand, kidney failure is way more serious as it means that the kidney has stopped functioning properly.

What are the Most Common Kidney Issues in Dogs?


Kidney disease in dogs may be due to many different causes. The common causes include:

Geriatric Degeneration

Through time, cells in the kidneys may decrease and die. This is the most common cause of kidney disease in dogs.

Bacterial Infections

This may be caught upon swimming or having drunk water that is contaminated. This can lead to the inflammation of the kidneys.


Another term for this is kidney poisoning as it happens when kidneys are damaged due to a dog ingesting toxins such as antifreeze and chocolate, medications such as acetaminophen/ibuprofen, and being exposed to harmful chemicals in the environment.

Congenital Disease

Agenesis, cysts, and abnormal developments can cause damage to the kidneys.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic Kidney Disease is usually irreversible, but when it is diagnosed and treated early, the progress of the disease may be limited, and many dogs live healthy and happy years after being diagnosed. Below are some factors that may make your dog more prone to getting kidney issues.


The dog breeds that are more prone to kidney disease are Bull Terriers, German Sheperd, and English Cocker Spaniels.


When dogs reach seven years old, they get a higher chance of getting kidney disease.


There are chemicals in the environment that can cause damage to the kidneys. Some examples are disinfectants, chemicals, certain medications, lead paint, and antifreeze.


Dog foods that contain a higher percentage of protein, as well as those with a higher level of phosphorous, can increase kidney disease progression.

Kidney disease may also be caused by conditions such as cancer and periodontal disease (which can also be a cause of renal failure in advanced cases).

2 Forms of Kidney Disease


This form may be caused by an injury to the kidney, toxins, rodenticides, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. Raisins, grapes, and leptospirosis.


This form, on the other hand, is usually progressive and irreversible. This usually goes on for extended periods (3 or more months).


The International Renal Society (IRIS) classifies the stages of kidney disease from 1 - 4. The higher the number, the more symptoms you notice your pet exhibiting. It is ideal to start treatment in the earlier stages for better chances of recovery. The estimated survival period for each stage is as follows:

  • Stage 1: more than 400 days;
  • Stage 2: between 200 - 400 days;
  • Stage 3: between 110 - 200 days.

What is Renal Failure in Dogs?


Chronic renal failure (CRF), also known as chronic kidney disease (CKD) is when the kidneys are not able to filter out the toxins from the blood. While dogs with renal failure may produce urine, they aren’t able to eliminate the toxic wastes from their body.


Being a progressive disease, chronic kidney disease, or failure isn’t curable. At the earlier stages of kidney disease the nephrons work extra hard to make up for the lost nephrons. However, in the latter stage, the remaining nephrons aren’t able to keep up anymore.

In the progression of the disease, the prognosis doesn’t look good. Generally, the estimated survival period for those with Stage 4 kidney disease ranges between 14-80 days.

Symptoms of Kidney Disease

While it may be difficult to detect, the symptoms below may indicate that your dog has kidney issues. If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms, it’s best to contact your vet.

To look out for the symptoms mentioned above, it’s best to find ways to monitor your dog better. Having innovative monitoring devices such as the Petcube interative pet camera makes this possible. With it, not only do you get an affordable and smart HD pet camera, but you also get access to Petcube’s 24/7 Online Vet service. That way, you can address your dog’s kidney issues early on for a better recovery prognosis.

How Chronic Kidney Disease is Diagnosed

Diagnosis involves 2 basic tests to determine how the kidneys are functioning – a blood chemistry analysis and a urinalysis.

To determine kidney function, a urinalysis will be performed. If your dog has low uring gravity, this is an early sign of kidney failure. When the level of protein (proteinuria) is elevated, this also indicates that there is a decrease in the function of the kidneys.

The blood chemistry analysis is done to determine how internal organs are functioning. It measures the amount of the waste products found in the blood, called blood creatinine (CREA) and blood urea nitrogen (BUN).

Tests that measure the blood levels of globulin, potassium, albumin, sodium, calcium, and phosphorus, as well as white and red blood cell counts, are vital in determining the severity of kidney disease and how best to treat it.

A more recent blood test to measure the levels of SDMA (a biological indicator of how the kidney is functioning) may also be done to know if there is early renal failure.

Treatment and Prevention

How to treat chronic kidney disease would depend on the diagnosis based on their urinalysis and blood work analysis results. In severe cases, however, treatment may not be effective. On the other hand, if the problem is diagnosed early and treated aggressively, many dogs can live a healthy and normal life for years.

Normally, there are 2 phases when it comes to treating the disease. First is by flushing out the kidneys by eliminating the toxins that have accumulated in the blood. The next phase is by going for treatments that would help manage the condition and delay its progress.

What your dog eats plays an essential part in his overall health and wellness. With this, finding out that your dog has kidney disease likely means that their diet should be modified, more specifically by selecting food with decreased levels of protein, salt, and phosphorus.

The decrease of phosphorus levels in their diet helps their clinical signs become less severe while slowing down the progress of their chronic kidney disease. Meanwhile, decreasing the protein levels may help maintain their acid-base levels at a normal range.

Ensuring that our dogs have balanced nutrition is essential in keeping their overall health in check. If your dog is diagnosed with kidney issues, ensuring that they have the right nutrition that they need would make a positive effect on their quality of life.

Supplements may also help in maintaining your dog’s health. For proper diagnosis and treatment options, contact your vet for advice on how to best address the disease.

Emergency Fund

The possibility of our dog having a medical emergency may be overwhelming for us dog owners, to say the least. Because of this, we want to be assured that our dog is given the best care if they need to be rushed to the vet. One way for us to be assured is to have the necessary funds to pay the veterinary bills on time.

At the same time, we want to be able to talk to a professional who is knowledgeable about our dog’s condition. Petcube’s Pet Emergency Fund offers all that and more. Offering the best pet insurance alternative, not only do you get $3000 in an emergency for all your pets, but you also get access to a 24/7 online vet for any concerns that you may have regarding your pet and their condition.

All this for less than $1 a day. With Pet Emergency Fund, you and your pet are given the proper care and assurance.


What is renal dysplasia in dogs?

Renal dysplasia in dogs is hereditary and can be described as an abnormality in a dog’s renal tissue. The appearance of dysplastic canine kidneys is usually detected in the late stage of the disease (chronic kidney failure), with the presence of degenerative changes as well as inflammation.

However, there was a study involving 5 related Cairn Terriers and the ultrasonographic appearance of their kidneys before the onset of clinical as well as lab evidence that they have renal failure. The study was able to show the possibility of detecting dysplastic changes before the clinical signs are detected, making ultrasound a potentially effective way to screen kidney dysplasia in dogs early on.

How does fluid therapy for dogs with kidney failure work?

Fluid therapy for dogs with kidney failure involves the flushing out of the kidneys and bloodstream using high doses of IV fluids. This process is known as diuresis, and it helps the slightly damaged cells in the kidney to be able to function again by eliminating the toxins and creating a better environment for the kidneys to recover.

When enough kidney cells that can function remain, they may be able to satisfy the need for filtration and removal of waste that is needed by the body. Fluid therapy is involved in replacing different electrolytes.

Other necessary measures in the initial treatment process include having the proper nutrition and certain medications for diarrhea and vomiting if needed. More likely, your dog will feel better after this part of the treatment has already started.

What is the prognosis of kidney cancer in dogs?

After being diagnosed with kidney cancer, if cancer hasn’t spread yet and the affected kidney is removed, a dog can live for up to 4 years. The average survival period for dogs that are diagnosed with kidney cancer, however, has an average survival period of 8 - 16 months after being diagnosed with the disease.

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