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KIDNEY FAILURE

What is kidney failure?
Kidney failure, also known as renal failure, results from the inability of the kidneys to function properly. When they are healthy, kidneys perform several functions including removing the waste products of metabolism from your pet’s blood, regulating the volume and composition of body fluids, producing hormones that stimulate production of red blood cells, and controlling blood pressure.

There are two kinds of kidney failure. The first is known as CHRONIC KIDNEY FAILURE, which occurs when the kidneys can no longer perform the crucial functions previously listed. In this case, kidney function decreases slowly over a long period of time, which means the physical signs may appear gradually.
The second type is known as ACUTE KIDNEY FAILURE. It is characterized by an abrupt decline in kidney function. These changes negatively impact almost every system in the body. The physical signs are more dramatic with this form because the kidney function declines quickly.

What are the causes of kidney failure?
There are many possible causes of kidney failure, but the most common is that the kidneys simply “wear out” due to age. Other potential causes of failure include ingestion of toxic substances (including antifreeze, some anti-inflammatory drugs and certain types of antibiotics. In addition, some types of infections may cause kidney function to decline.

What are the physical signs my pet might experience?
Any of the following signs may be indicators of kidney failure:

  • Excessive drinking
  • Increased urination
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Inappetance (decline of appetite)
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Weight loss or muscle wasting

How is kidney failure treated?
Tests are necessary to diagnose acute and chronic kidney failure and to rule out other diseases. Blood and urine samples are used to test for values related to various kidney functions and to make sure that infection is not the cause of the physical signs of disease.
Acute kidney failure is potentially reversible, whereas chronic failure is not. Pets experiencing chronic failure may not respond to treatment at all or may live another few months or even years. An acute problem can become a chronic problem. We can differentiate between acute and chronic failure based on history, physical examination and laboratory testing. A kidney biopsy may be required to give an accurate prognosis for your pet’s life expectancy.

Kidney transplants are available for cats that pass qualification testing. Transplants in dogs have been much more difficult to accomplish successfully due to severe rejection issues.
Both forms of kidney failure can be life-threatening conditions requiring hospitalization.

Treatment may include:

  • Intravenous fluids
  • Medication for high blood pressure
  • Special diets
  • Supportive care / hospitalization
  • Anti-vomiting/nausea medications
  • Medications for anemia
  • Potassium supplementation
  • Phosphate binders
  • anti-ulcer medications

After your pet leaves the hospital, testing should be repeated at regular intervals per our staff doctor's recommendations. Following the care instructions and working closely with our staff will give your pet a better quality of life during treatment and often helps prolong the life of your special friend.

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