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What is Renal Disease?

Renal disease (or more commonly known, kidney) failure refers to any condition which stops the kidneys from functioning properly. This blog looks into what renal is, how to spot signs of it, and how to treat it.

The Kidneys

Acute kidney disease can be very sudden. The symptoms can be severe and onset rapidly. Luckily, depending on the cause of the condition it can often be treated and resolved. Acute renal disease is often caused by another illness or health problem.

Kidney disease can affect pets in different ways and can be classified in two ways - acute and chronic.

Acute Kidney Disease (AKD)

Acute kidney disease can be very sudden. The symptoms can be severe and onset rapidly. Luckily, depending on the cause of the condition it can often be treated and resolved. Acute renal disease is often caused by another illness or health problem.

Chronic Kidney Disase (CKD)

Chronic kidney disease is a long-term condition that progresses gradually over time. Sadly the damage to the pet's kidneys in chronic renal cannot be reversed. Although there is no cure for chronic kidney disease, early intervention can help slow the progression of the disease. Taking your pet to the vet as soon as you recognise any symptoms can make a huge difference.

Symptoms To Look Out For:

  • Drinking excessively

  • Urinating frequently

  • Urinating in the house

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Weakness

  • Pale gums


There are many causes of renal failure such as old age, organ damage due to poisoning (such as ingesting antifreeze), toxic foods (such as raisins and grapes), and medications (such as ibuprofen). Kidney problems in dogs can also be caused by illnesses such as cancer.

As aforementioned, chronic renal is irreversible. This is due to the Kidney tissue becoming damaged. The Kidneys are made up of Nephrons that filter toxins that come into contact with the Kidneys. When the Nephrons become damaged they can stop working and are unable to regenerate. This is what causes Renal failure.

Identifying Kidney Disease

If a vet suspects possible acute or chronic renal disease then they will carry out some or all of the following tests depending on what they feel is appropriate:

  • Full clinical exam

  • Full urine analysis

  • Full biochemistry and haematology

  • Blood pressure

  • And possibly an ultrasound scan

At Roundwood Vets, we also offer an SDMA blood test. A SDMA blood test can detect kidney damage much earlier in both cats and dogs and can provide early diagnosis. This can help with early treatment plans that slow the progression of the disease down.


  • Fluid Therapy (intravenous fluids) can be used to restore hydration and flush out the substances that the kidneys should remove from the bloodstream.

  • Medications that control blood potassium and/or restore blood calcium levels can also be used for treatment.

  • Lastly, and most importantly, a change of diet can be used for treatment.


Treatment of renal disease, in particular CKD, mostly starts with a diet change. Studies show that a change in diet can have a positive effect on dogs and cats with CKD and can prolong their life.

The best food to give is high quality and low in protein. Ideally, it should also help with hydration levels. Many veterinary-approved prescription diets have been made specifically to help with kidney disease.

Unfortunately, removal of high protein can make the food seem less palatable and the build-up of toxins in your pet's body can cause them to feel nauseous.

If your pet is uninterested in their food, these tips could help:

  • Make slow changes to their diet

  • Warm food up to body temperature

  • Boil chicken or fish and use the (cooled down) leftover water to pour on top of their food to entice them

  • Try using a different bowl - plastic bowls can hold smells so a metal or ceramic one may be a better alternative

  • Try to feed your pet away from other animals and yourself

  • Feed your pet little and often to help with nausea

  • Try and match the texture of their old food

  • Try a range of kidney prescription diets

Maintaining Hydration

Maintaining hydration helps keep your pet's kidneys hydrated and working well.

Ways to motivate drinking water can be:

  • Adding water to their food.

  • Having many water bowls dotted around the home to remind them to drink.

  • Using water fountains, and collecting rainwater.

  • Instead of a bowl, use a cup or jug, you'll be surprised what they may like drinking out of.

  • As mentioned before you can use the leftover chicken or fish water to add to their food to make the food tastier and increase hydration

  • Always have fresh water available throughout the day.

Don't Worry!

When your animal companion gets diagnosed with kidney disease it can be a scary and worrying time. However, with so many advances in veterinary medicine and nutrition, there are many options out there that can help keep your friend as comfy and happy as possible and can help prolong the progression of the disease.

We at Roundwood Vets will be with you every step of the way and are happy to discuss any worries you may have.


Order Dr Hannah Parkin's Amazing Guide To Caring For Your New Puppy.
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