Kidney Failure In Dogs & What It Means

Disclaimer: I am NOT a veterinarian or technician. I am a pet owner. I've researched this topic upside down and inside out after my dog was diagnosed. If you have a pet you feel may be in kidney failure, consult with a vet as soon as possible. Together with your vet come up with a method of treatment that will be best for both you and your pet. My heart goes out to anyone in this situation. If you need to talk, I am happy to chat and I am an Email away!

Sparky, Cairn TerrierIf there is one thing that I am truly passionate about 110% of the time, it would be my family. My immediate household includes my husband, my daughter, my son, my canine and myself. I am that typical mother bear. I protect my children and my canine with everything in me. That leads me to my reason for this post.

Two weeks ago our canine, Sparky, started vomiting. It wasn’t a daily thing but it was enough to raise some alarm. Since the dog food we’d be using contained the “new and improved” sticker we immediately thought it was the food and bought different food. His vomiting increased to daily at least once. I called the vet. I asked if I should being him in or if they wanted me to try something else. I’ve done this hundreds of times with my children’s care, my care and my dogs care. If you can trouble shoot some before you head to the doctor you end up with a better outcome, generally. This situation was no different to me. They recommended a simple bland diet of white rice and hamburger. It was 3 parts rice to 1 part hamburger. We started with 1/4 cup twice a day. The vomiting decreased. Then we hit day 5 and it was time to move up to 1/2 cup twice a day. With this the vomiting increased but not as bad as the original vomiting. On Sunday (day 7) as instructed, we went ahead and mixed a small mount of Blue Buffalo Senior Chicken & Brown Rice kibble to his rice/hamburger diet. Everything was okay until about 10:30pm. He started vomiting and it continued all night long with over 10 episodes. We tried to just keep him comfortable until we could see the vet Monday morning.

Monday comes and we head to the vet. It was then that I was given the most devastating news ever. His x-ray looked good, his blood work though was a whole different story. We were informed that our Sparky had Kidney Failure. I lost my composure. I wasn’t able to see straight. The thought of my baby having Kidney Failure? He is a couple months shy of 8 years old. I always knew as a fur-mommy I would meet the day I would lose him, but I never imagined it like this! Ever. After we got the horrible news we got our treatment choices. They were:

  • Leave him there for hospitalization, IV treatment & observation for 24-48 hours
  • Take him home with Sub-Q hydration and anti-nausea medicine
  • Take him home & make him comfortable until he passes
  • Euthanization

As an animal lover there was ZERO chance that I wouldn’t TRY and fight for him. A large portion of his recovery is dependent on him, but I will be by his side to comfort him and give him everything he needs in the meantime. With Kidney Failure he’s not in any pain. He just has a sick down feeling. It is one of the hardest things I have done in my life. I am watching him pass away.

Sparking.. Enjoying The Boat

Sparky is an amazing dog, who is literally the perfect dog. So many people have wanted to take him home. Many people that aren’t really dog people even like him. He’s a baby. He’s a great dog. He’s an amazing companion for me. I love him so much that my heart actually hurts. I feel like there is a knife in my chest. In the end we decided to leave Sparky at the hospital for the night at least. We wanted to see if IV hydration would help at all. When we brought him in on Monday his BUN level was 90 and his Creatinine level was 7. On Tuesday when they retested his levels his BUN level was 82 and his Creatinine level was 6.5. The vet had hoped for a more dramatic change. They removed his IV prior to checking his levels, which didn’t make me happy since he was staying for IV hydration. We decided it was best for us to bring Sparky home. At this point the vet had given us every single reason to believe that we had little to no time left with him. Sparky is a rescue and started out with a horrible life. I promised him I would always be there and I would never leave him and I haven’t nor will I. He’s a very affectionate dog. He hates being locked up in cages like he was at the vet. He has bad anxiety and the higher the blood pressure in an animal with Kidney Failure there is more damage that CAN happen. The vet also doesn’t nightly staff, so from 7pm to 7am he was in a cage alone. No thanks, I’ll take my baby home![/caption]

The last two days have been a whirlwind. We are certainly not ruling out putting him to sleep, but when the time is right. At this point Sparky is eating and wanting more food then we are giving him. I’m nervous about his nausea so I am giving him a little food at a time several times a day. He was up early Wednesday morning at 1:30am. He had to use the bathroom and he threw up three times on the way. I lost a great deal of hope. Then today I read quite a few articles online and I called the vet’a office to speak to the doctor. He called me back and I was LOADED with questions. I got the Sub-Q treatment for home and also other options for foods that will give him lots of liquid choices.

Right now he is resting peacefully. After he vomited on Wednesday, he held everything down until 9:00pm that night. He did get up once already to use the bathroom and at that time he vomited. It’s very hard and so frustrating. One of the hardest things (besides watching your fur-baby slip away) is the unknown. Every single dog is different. Every single case is different. While his levels are high, the vet has seen smaller dogs with higher levels that have lived for months, even years. I won’t be naive in thinking this will pass and we will move on and be fine because I know that is absolutely not the case! We are just buying time right now, which is okay since he is reacting to us, he’s still eating & drinking, he’s still using the bathroom. It’s difficult. The entire situation is a lot to deal with. I don’t want to have false hope but I don’t want to give up either. It’s so hard to make that choice and it’s even harder to watch him grow through all of this.

Our Sparky

He is, without a doubt, my companion. I am doing everything I can to make him comfortable and enjoy the time we all have with him. It’s a very hard road to travel. I don’t wish this on anyone. Pets are members of our family. The more time we can have with him the better. I just pray that this will all help him and he will be somewhat normal again. His poor sad eyes when he vomits is enough to kill me. But he’s still so happy and excited bout the kids, his toys, his food (feedings). We have to be strong, even though I just want to cry.. all day.. every day..

What do you do if your dog has Kidney Failure?

First, don’t give up! Your dog doesn’t have a voice, but you are the next best thing. You don’t want to prolong things if your dog is in horrible shape or too far in, but you can make him/her comfortable. In the end the comfort will bring you comfort. Read, Google, Search.. I have not stopped since we’ve gotten the diagnosis. I have given a lot of time to this diagnosis and finding answers. Even if the “medical” information says that his levels are too high to come down, I refuse to just let this take over. He has life in him which means he’s still up for the fight. We are getting fluids in to him any way we can. The best chance that you have of making the Kidney Failure kinda stop is by flushing the toxins. Aside from pushing liquid and having him use the bathroom, there is not any other way to achieve this. I will tell you that Sparky wasn’t taking enough fluids. Adding the Sub-Q fluids helped. Also upon my reading and researching found that baby food is a good source of hydration. He loves baby food. We don’t mind. The vet said that they cannot hurt him. Sweet potatoes, carrots and mangos are his favorite. At this point he’s on a Kidney Diet food from the vet. While a lot of pets are said to not like it, it’s wet dog food which happens to be Sparky’s favorite. I am able to add his medicine, probiotic and Mylanta to it and he still gobbles it up. Wet dog food and treats are the way to go. I say this because a dry treat and a dry dog food need water to break down. The water/liquid intake that he current has is needed for the Kidneys to flush. We cannot ration the liquid out for his food. In the end, it’s better for them to have dry food because it helps keep their teeth strong, but at this point, it’s necessary to use the wet food on a constant basis.

Can My Dog Recover From Kidney Failure?

Unfortunately the answer is no. There is no way to reverse kidney damage. What you can do is get the dog to a comfortable level. Some dogs can live for days, weeks, months or even years with a kidney failure diagnosis. Doing everything you are told will help you get your dog to a comfortable place. For us, we’ve been pushing fluids and giving Sub-Q fluids (a simpler form of IV under the skin rather then in the veins). We’ve also given Sparky a probiotic and Mylanta with Reglan as an anti-nausea and motility medicine. The Mylanta helps bind the phosphates in the system and thus making it easier on the kidney. The probiotic helps his digestive system with some good bacteria while this harsh stuff and stomach acid can kind of hurt the stomach and cause nausea. The motility medicine gets things through the stomach faster and into the guts. It also helps it pass through the guts. At this point we are wanting to hurry through the stomach because there is less of a chance that we will lose that food and nutrition. While it can be difficult to manage all of this, it’s worth it.

Sparky was sent home with a very grim outlook on Tuesday. Just 2 days later I can see the change. He’s perky, he’s moving around, he has life within him. He does crave extra attention and it takes a lot to remind him to drink and feed him 4 times a day versus one or two. The kids would help at feeding times, but having to carefully control and watch things, it’s too hard to have them help. I will mix things and allow them to give him the bowl, but it’s always a mixture and it’s too hard to control all of that.

Where Can I Find More Information On Kidney Failure In Pets?

I have found so much information throughout the internet. There are a few of my favorite places. I would recommend signing up and joining, but if you chose not to, you can also just read without registering. I highly recommend MedHelp. There is a lot of information there and it’s not just about pets. They have a dedicated section for pets though and I have found a wealth of information in this thread which has been active since 2008 with new posts frequently. WebMD is another source I love (Yes, I am aware this is the same site for humans! They have a whole section for pets too!).

No matter where you dog is in the stages of kidney failure, you can buy time. There are lots of different things to try. It’s also important to remember that you are making your pet comfortable and ever night when we head to sleep, we give the dog kisses and let him know that we love him. Everyday is a blessing. You never know when it will be over. I am not going to sit here and tell you that this is easy because it’s not. I am here to tell you there is hope. I am physically, emotionally and mentally drained! This whole process is equivalent to having a newborn in the house. We have made our plans and made our wishes known to each other. I have kids so it’s important to me to grant their wish if something happens and they are not here. We stand united with this and while I am disabled and the care giver for the dog 90% of the time, that doesn’t mean that I am alone. My family continues to fight to. They help when that can. It’s safe to say that no matter the cost, the time, the work, the stress.. it’s worth every last bit of it. This is my companion.


5 Responses to “Kidney Failure In Dogs & What It Means”

  1. October 3, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Your dog is such a cutie.

    After reading this post, I think my last dog passed away from undiagnosed kidney failure because he had some of the same symptoms, and passed away with no warning (but never seemed to be in pain). The vet had no clue (without an autopsy) of what it would have been.

    Anyways…thank you for sharing this information.

    I know exactly how you feel about fighting for the life of your dog.

    One of mine was diagnosed with uterine cancer. I had no idea that an unspayed dog has a higher chance of getting it. We were presented with expensive surgery that may or may not help prolong her life. There was no doubt in our head to do it. She had the operation and she lived for a couple more years. So glad we did – she was part of the family.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your dog. I wish Sparky recovery and good times with the family. He’s very lucky to have you as his ‘family.’

    • Bobbie
      November 1, 2013 at 10:05 am

      Thank you Yona. It’s a horrible disease and it progresses so fast and they don’t get symptoms until they are too far in, which makes it that much harder. You get the diagnosis and then you wait.. it could be days, weeks, months, years.. you never know. But it breaks your heart every single day. Once he was diagnosed I never want to leave him. I wouldn’t even do housework. I just sat and held him. He loved to cuddle and I would just cuddle and enjoy him. He was always such a bright light in our house. Even our parents (his babysitters when we went on vacations, etc) were devastated.

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