Kidney Care for Dogs


Ru Chen

- Updated April 24, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Kidney disease can be chronic or acute
  • Treatment for kidney disease involves fluid therapy, dietary changes, and surgery
  • Preventive measures are vital for good kidney health in dogs
Kidney Care for Dogs

Kidneys filter out waste and balance nutrients in a dog’s body. If your dog’s kidney functions worsen, their overall health can be severely impacted. Proper kidney care is vital for a dog’s overall health and happiness, which means attentive care, dietary changes, and treatment strategies as needed.

Let’s go over the importance of kidney care in dogs, signs of canine renal failure, and how pet insurance can help you with dog kidney care.


Kidney Care for Dogs

Dogs have two bean-shaped kidneys that filter out toxins from the bloodstream. This waste is excreted from the body in urine. Healthy kidneys also maintain the balance of electrolytes, regulate hydration, and release essential hormones.

Kidney problems in dogs can be either chronic or acute. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) occurs over time and has a slow onset that can take years before symptoms become noticeable.

Chronic kidney disease in dogs may be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Dental disease
  • Aging
  • Congenital conditions
  • Bacterial infections and inflammation

Acute kidney failure can be caused by:

  • Toxic ingestion (e.g. antifreeze, household cleaners, poison)
  • Severe dehydration
  • Heat strokes
  • Infections

Proper dog care and precautions can greatly reduce the likelihood of renal failure in dogs.

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Problems in Dogs

The symptoms of kidney issues will vary depending on the severity of disease progression and your dog’s overall health condition. There are four stages of progression, I, II, III, and IV. The first stage of kidney disease gives dogs a life expectancy of over 400 days. However, the fourth stage only gives dogs a survival time of around 14 to 80 days.

CKD can take years before symptoms become noticeable. Here are the main signs of chronic kidney disease in dogs.

Increased Thirst and Urination

The most noticeable symptom of kidney problems is that your dog will start drinking water excessively, along with increased urination. This is because as kidney disease progresses, the kidneys lose the ability to retain water.

Dogs with kidney disease may soil areas around the house due to greater urination. This happens because fewer toxins are removed by the failing kidneys each time they urinate, which means more frequent urination is required.

Loss of Appetite

Dogs with kidney problems might no longer feel healthy enough to eat. Gastric discomfort, acid reflux, and nausea due to renal impairment can cause this loss of appetite. Because of this inappetence, it can be challenging to create a new kidney diet for a dog with impaired kidney functions.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

A dog with kidney problems may suffer from vomiting and diarrhea. See if your vet can prescribe suitable medications and kidney diets so your dog can recover. Options include canine anti-nausea medications and drinking water an hour before or after mealtime instead of during.

Weight Loss

Since a dog with kidney issues might struggle with eating normally, it’s easy for them to lose weight. If your dog has any unexplained weight loss, it’s critical to take them to the vet. Sharp fluctuations in weight can be caused by severe medical conditions.


Lethargy in dogs refers to weakness and lack of energy. A dog with kidney issues might not want to play with their favorite toys anymore – instead, they need extra rest. Fatigue is a common symptom of chronic kidney disease in dogs.

Preventive Measures for Maintaining Kidney Health

1. Providing Fresh Water

As simple as it sounds, your dog needs regular access to water. Make sure they have a clean water station they can always go to when thirsty. Water ensures better overall health in dogs, with kidneys benefiting the most. Essentially, the supply of water should be unlimited so your dog can drink when they are thirsty. Fluid therapy might even be necessary if your dog is dehydrated.

2. Balanced Nutrition

A balanced diet is key to maintaining a dog’s kidney health. Avoid giving your dog too much protein, especially foods with high phosphorus content.

Examples of food that dogs with kidney disease might need to avoid:

  • Fresh fish
  • Whole eggs
  • Wheat
  • Chicken breast

Instead of these high-protein foods, consider giving your dog plant-based proteins instead. Vegetables that are generally safe for dogs with kidney problems include cabbages, cucumbers, green beans, and leafy greens.

However, be sure that your dog’s diet is well-balanced. Too little meat proteins and sodium can also hurt your dog. A vet can help you select a suitable portion size and diet if your dog has impaired kidney function.

3. Regular Exercise

Dogs require regular exercise, with some energetic breeds needing more than others. However, dogs struggling with kidney disease often need activities that are fun but not exhausting. Your dog will need to hydrate more often, so make sure you have enough water supply.

4. Routine Veterinary Check-ups

Depending on the current severity of your dog’s condition, your vet may recommend different check-up frequencies. A dog with Stage I kidney disease might need at least one check-up every three to six months. A dog with Stage IV kidney disease should visit at least once every two months, or even sooner as necessary.

5. Avoid toxins

Dogs exposed to dangerous substances are likely to suffer from acute kidney failure. Dangerous foods and chemicals your dog must avoid include:

  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Household cleaners
  • Human medications

6. Maintain good dental health

Good dental health in dogs is associated with better overall health. Poor dental hygiene can exacerbate other health conditions, including kidney failure. Make sure your dog has a proper dental hygiene routine.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

1. Veterinary Examination and Blood Tests

Vets needs to examine your dog regularly, performing blood tests and physical examinations to monitor your dog’s condition.

2. Dietary Management

Kidney diets for dogs are significantly different from the standard dog diet. A kidney diet for dogs often means:

  • Balanced plant-based protein: Dogs with kidney issues should ingest protein carefully. Plant-based protein is recommended since it comes with less phosphorus.

  • Less phosphorus: Less phosphorus in the diet has been shown to slow the progression of canine kidney disease. This is because impaired kidneys lose the ability to excrete phosphorus in urine.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: EPA and DHA are essential omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids could help reduce inflammation and lead to better kidney function.

  • Less sodium: Too much sodium could cause your dog to become thirsty and dehydrated. Ensure your dog ingests a suitable amount.

3. Medications

Vets prescribe a wide range of medications for dogs to handle both the primary and secondary symptoms of kidney disease.

Supplements can be used to replace vitamins lost due to renal problems. Common supplements include:

  • Phosphorus binders
  • Vitamin D
  • Antioxidants

Be careful with giving your dog the wrong supplements. Always consult with a veterinarian when determining what medications your dog with kidney disease can safely take.

4. Fluid Therapy

Dehydration is often a serious problem for dogs with kidney problems. Fluid therapy aims to replace depleted fluid levels in dogs.

  • Intravenous drip
  • Subcutaneous fluid therapy

5. Surgery

Severe cases of kidney disease may require surgical treatment. Surgeries for kidney disease include nephrectomy, nephrotomy, and ureteral anastomosis. Most commonly, vets perform surgery to remove urinary calculi (AKA bladder stones) in dogs.

6. Kidney dialysis

Dialysis is rarely offered as a treatment option for dogs due to its risky and expensive nature. A machine takes the dog’s blood and cleanses it, then pumps this clean blood back into the body.

Lifestyle Adjustments for Dogs with Kidney Disease

1. Dietary Modifications

Dogs with kidney disease require a different nutrient profile that aligns with their new needs and impaired kidney function. Choosing the right dog food is more important than ever.

A kidney diet for dogs usually involves:

  • Careful protein intake
  • Less phosphorus
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Less sodium

Take your dog to a licensed vet to obtain a more individualized and suitable kidney diet.

2. Monitoring Fluid Intake and Output

Dogs with kidney disease should have their water consumption monitored. For example, if a dog is struggling with food, it might help to give them water an hour before or after mealtime. Make sure that your dog always has access to clean, fresh water.

3. Medication Administration

Various medications can promote kidney health and function for dogs suffering from CKD. A vet might prescribe benazepril or enalapril as therapy for protein in the urine. These medications can help lower pressure within the kidneys, reducing proteins in their urine.

It’s important to stick to the instructions that your veterinarian has given you. When it comes to administering medications to your dog for kidney disease, breaking the pattern or starting new medications abruptly could have unwanted side effects.

4. Comfort Measures

Going through kidney disease is often a painful and frustrating experience for dogs. Dogs might not understand why they need to undergo treatment, dietary changes, and frequent vet visits. Continue playing and spending quality time with your dog. Give them their favorite toys and blankets, especially since they might no longer be able to eat their favorite treats.


Finding Pet Insurance for Dogs

Pet insurance provides valuable financial protection to dog owners. When you need to pay vet expenses for treating your dog’s kidney disease, having coverage can make a big difference.

The three main types of pet insurance coverage are:

Accident and Illness Pet Insurance: Comprehensive coverage that covers both accidents and illnesses.

Accident-only Pet Insurance: Only covers tests and treatment related to accidents. Common accidents dogs can get into include toxic ingestion, broken bones, and lacerations.

Wellness Plan: Covers preventive care vet expenses such as anti-parasite medication, dental cleanings, annual health exams, and vaccinations.

How Pet Insurance Enables Kidney Care for Dogs

Caring for a dog with kidney disease is challenging both emotionally and financially. The initial tests for diagnosing kidney disease can cost $200 to $800. Managing a dog’s kidney condition can cost up to $500 a month, depending on the prescribed medications and treatment methods.

Over time, treating a dog’s chronic or astute kidney disease can cost thousands of dollars, posing a financial burden on many dog owners. Pet insurance can provide significant reimbursements, saving you much of the kidney disease treatment costs for your dog.

With suitable pet insurance coverage, dog owners can rest assured that they can afford the essential medical services necessary for a dog with kidney failure. This peace of mind lets a pet owner focus on staying by their dog’s side and meeting their needs without stressing over the high veterinary expenses.

Factors to Consider

Coverage Type: Comprehensive pet insurance is best for dogs who might be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. While accident insurance is more affordable, it will not cover the treatment of serious illnesses that come with expensive vet bills. A wellness plan add-on is also recommended for the better monitoring of your pet’s needs and dental care, which are important for good overall health.

Coverage Limits: This is how much your insurance provider will cover in a year. For kidney care and other medical needs, it’s recommended to get a coverage limit of at least $10,000 a year.

Breed and Age of the Dog: Chronic kidney disease and other health conditions are more prevalent in older dogs. Because of the higher risks, many pet insurers have breed and age restrictions. Look for a pet insurance provider without restrictions on your dog.

Pre-existing Conditions: Pet insurance carriers will not provide coverage for pre-existing conditions (i.e. anything diagnosed before you activated coverage). It’s essential to procure coverage earlier rather than later. This way, if your dog is diagnosed with CKD, it won’t be considered a pre-existing condition.

Looking for the best pet insurance for a dog with worrisome symptoms? Consider these dependable pet insurance companies for your dog’s kidney care needs.


Preventive measures and proper treatment can help a dog maintain better kidney health. Prevention is critical when it comes to avoiding both chronic and acute kidney failure in dogs since kidney failure is often painful and fatal.

Because of the risks of kidney failure in dogs, the financial burden on pet owners can be heavy. Consider obtaining pet insurance to mitigate the high costs of treating a dog with kidney failure and other health conditions. Good pet insurance also promotes earlier detection of CKD, which can make a world of difference when it comes to such a life-threatening disease.

About The Author

Ru Chen

Ru Chen

Content Writer

Ru Chen is a content writer with several years of experience in creating engaging and well-researched articles. She mostly writes about insurance, business, digital marketing, and law. In her free time, she can be found watching horror movies and playing board games with her partner in Brooklyn.

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