Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs

Acute Kidney Failure in Dogs and how Safe Guard can help prevent it

Dogs' healthy kidneys perform essential functions to ensure their overall health.

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs inside the abdomen and are part of the urinary tract.

Majorly, kidneys filter blood and eliminate wastes accumulated as byproducts by normal metabolic processes, help rejuvenate red blood cells, manage blood pressure, and keep track of electrolyte balance within a dog's body.

However, kidneys are sensitive and become compromised at the slightest provocation!

What is acute renal (kidney) failure?

Dogs experience two types of kidney failure; acute and chronic.

Acute kidney failure or renal failure is caused by diseases that suddenly impact kidney functions in a dog's body.

A dog's kidneys comprise hundreds of thousands of nephrons (microscopic filtering units). When blood flows through the kidneys, waste products diffuse into the nephrons, eliminating them as urine.

Renal failure affects the dog's water conservation, making them lose a lot of water in the urine, resulting in dehydration. Sometimes the kidneys may produce little urine or shut down entirely in severe cases.

Failure of the kidneys to function increases the water needed to excrete the same amount of toxins.

This means the kidney cells are so damaged that they don't get oxygen from red blood cells to filter the dog's blood effectively.

Electrolytes such as potassium may be lost while others like phosphorus which further damages cells, are retained. The filtration part of the kidneys is eventually jammed up with damaged cells and proteins.

Chronic kidney failure cases are often irreversible or incurable, making early detection, diagnosis, and treatments essential.

Is kidney failure in dogs invariably fatal?

Stages of acute kidney failure are numbered 1 through 4 (with four being the most severe)

They are based on how well the kidneys filter toxins off the dog's blood and concentrate urine. More symptoms shown by the dogs mean a high stage number.

Urinalysis and laboratory are significant criteria for moving from one stage to another. Stage 1 usually indicates acute kidney failure, while 4 is severe.

Sub-grading also determines the severity of acute failure stages concerning the kidney's power to produce urine. 

The average survival time for dogs is: 

  1. Stage 1: 400 days and more
  2. Stage 2: about 200-400 days
  3. Stage 3: about 110-200 days

Sadly, chronic kidney failures have no cure as it is progressive, and the damage is severe when the dog exhibits its first signs.

Survival time decreases with each stage as the disease progresses and the prognosis worsens.

How long can dogs live with acute(renal) kidney failure?

Symptoms of acute kidney failure do vary depending on its stage, from mild and subtle to severe.

The symptoms may appear suddenly, and one may notice one or more of the following:

  • Drinking too much and producing large volumes of urine
  • Significant weight loss
  • Increase or decrease in volume of urine
  • Overall weakness caused by low potassium in the blood
  • Blood in urine and lethargy
  • Intestinal seizures
  • Breath that smells like chemicals
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Increase or decrease in water consumption
  • Uncoordinated movement such as stumbling
  • Lack of appetite and increased thirst
  • Pale gums and ulcers in the mouth
  • Depression and blindness
  • General depression associated with elevation of waste products in blood

These signs may sometimes fail to be precise. It is essential as a dog owner to contact a vet as soon as there is any unusual change in your dog's behaviour.

What causes sudden kidney failure in dogs?

Sudden and negative impact on your dog's kidneys can lead to a decrease in kidney functions, and common causes include:

  • Congenital diseases of hereditary conditions like a puppy born with one or no kidney and underlying illnesses also lead to kidney failure.
  • Attacks by bacterial infections like leptospirosis that inflames and kills renal cell kidneys to become inflamed is another causative. Dogs may get leptospirosis by drinking contaminated water from puddles, lakes, and ponds.
  • Accidental ingestion of toxins and poison (rodenticides and antifreeze products) may also lead to kidney failure.
  • Dental diseases from bacteria build up on the dog's gums and teeth and make their way into the dog's bloodstream and organs, damaging their kidneys, heart, and liver.
  • Gastric dilation volvulus, shock, congestive heart failure, or any condition that impacts renal blood flow causes acute renal failure.

Can kidney failure be misdiagnosed in dogs?


Veterinarians usually run blood and urine tests to verify if the dog has kidney failure and realize its severity.

Blood tests display variations in the white blood cells responsible for fighting infection and causing inflammation in acute kidney failure cases.

On the other hand, a urinalysis will prove if the dog's urine is losing proteins, if infections or kidney stones are present in the urinary tract or if the kidneys are concentrating the urine correctly.

Abdominal ultrasounds(sonogram), x-rays(radiographs), blood pressure, and special blood tests may also be performed to tell the cause of the condition and assess its severity. The cause of kidney failure is not always easily discernible.


The prognosis for a dog's kidney failure depends on how the dog responds to the beginning stages of its treatment with its owners' updates to treatment.

This condition is vital, and unfortunately, the prognosis for dogs suffering from acute kidney failure is that more than half the dogs affected do not survive more than several days.

However, on-time diagnosis and treatment may see some dogs recovering. A vet can provide a realistic prognosis for the dog's recovery and an appropriate treatment approach after examinations and testing.

To be prepared, it is essential to talk to the vet about the benefits and disadvantages of specific treatments with expected outcomes.

Can a dog recover from acute kidney failure?

In acute kidney failure cases, kidney functions may be salvaged, while kidney functions are lost permanently in chronic patients.

Acute renal failure requires hospitalisation of the dog combined with intensive treatment to support the kidneys as

These treatments include:

Intravenous (IV) fluids: Fluid therapy is the initial foundation treatment of acute kidney failure. These fluids restore good hydration, promote urine formation, enhance renal blood flow and normalise internal fluid balance. In addition, the kidneys clear out substances from the bloodstream. The dog's urine production is then monitored for signs of improvement. Decreased urine production may necessitate other therapies. At this point, diuretics can be administered to increase urine output.

Electrolyte support: Medications and fluids are prescribed by vets to manage electrolyte imbalances, like increased potassium from wastes that accumulate in the body leading to life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias.

Continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT): This treatment uses advanced equipment to remove toxins from the dog's bloodstream and is performed for over 24-48 hours to allow electrolytes, pH, and fluid volume to gradually normalise.

Nutritional support: This treatment requires the dog's urgency of vomiting to be controlled, after which a liquid diet is given through a feeding tube, but if it persists, IV nutrition may be administered.

Kidney dialysis (Hemodialysis): A large catheter is put in the dog's vein to remove part of the blood at a time. The blood is afterward run through a machine that cleans it for effectiveness.

Peritoneal dialysis: This treatment helps flush out toxins by putting a tube directly into the dog's stomach and draining out fluids after a couple of hours. The dog requires 24 hours attention at this point, and a vet should always be by their side.

Antibiotics: If the reason for the dog's kidney failure is an infection or is known, vets may prescribe suitable antibiotics.

Antacids such as Pepcid or Zantac are other medications that may be administered because kidney failures are attached to causing ulcers. If ulcers are bleeding, they may require medications to coat them.

How can I prevent acute renal failure in my dog?

Unfortunately, there is little to be done to prevent acute kidney failure, but there are a few guidelines a dog owner can follow to lower its risks:

  • Monitor your home for toxic substances such as pesticides and a car's antifreeze since their exposure to your dog causes acute kidney failure.
  • Clean up all antifreeze spills and leaks and store all its products safely out of the dog's reach.
  • Give the dog access to plenty of water; on hot days, keep them indoors for some time to cool. This helps to keep them hydrated.
  • Regular veterinarian check-ups are essential. Early laboratory examinations to keep track of the dog's health can help prevent kidney failures during their onset.
  • Keep an eye on your dog not to let them wander and drink from water sources like rivers, puddles, ponds, or lakes.
  • Feed the dog high-quality, balanced diets containing all necessary ingredients' protein quality, and moisture content needed for their health. 

If acute kidney failure is diagnosed in its first stages and fluid therapy proves successful, below are steps to help revive the kidney's normal functions for as long as possible:

  • Transition the dog to a kidney-friendly diet low in sodium and proteins but high omega fatty acids. The reduced proteins help keep the dog's blood test close to normal and make them feel better, while for advanced stages, it decreases the pressure on the kidneys.
  • Offer medications for gastritis and secondary gastric ulcers, which cause decreased appetite for the dog due to excess stomach acid and nausea.
  • Give the dog phosphate binder drugs, vet-approved, to keep phosphates from the bloodstream and the intestinal tract for filtration.
  • Giving the dog a vet-approved potassium supplement helps replace lost nutrients when urinating and maintains kidney function.
  • Administer drugs to help fight high blood pressure as it is a problem for dogs with kidney failure.

How Safe Guard can help:

Safe Guard’s Soil Based Pre+Probiotics and Organic Mushroom mix ingredients helps restore balance to the gut, improve your dog’s immunity against conditions such as acute kidney failure and improve digestive function by increasing the number of good bacteria in the dog’s gut.

Final Thought

Kidney failure is a result of kidneys no longer functioning correctly.

Acute renal failure can impact many of your dog's normal internal functions and become life-threatening without prompt and aggressive treatment.

Many acute kidney failure instances can be reversed if treated early and aggressively. At the same time, chronic cases may be managed through consistent veterinary care and minimised with fluid therapy and diet changes.

Some acute kidney failure dogs may recover but develop chronic failures gradually because of the permanent damage.

Almost half of the dogs who suffer from acute kidney failure do not survive.