Kidney disease, known as renal insufficiency or renal failure, is a common finding in older pets as a result of age-related degenerative processes.  Renal failure in younger animals may be precipitated by congenital malformations, infections, toxins (such as antifreeze), shock-like events, underactive adrenal glands, or anesthetics.  Renal failure that has developed suddenly is potentially more reversible.  However, most forms of kidney disease are not “curable”.  Our goal is to prolong life only if it is good quality life.

During an acute crisis or when a pet has stopped eating/drinking, the most important treatment is intensive intravenous fluid administration.  IV fluids may need to be given up to two weeks in the hospital before enough improvement occurs for home care.  Other measures to increase blood flow to the kidneys are sometimes used as well.  If infections, toxins, or hypoadrenocorticism are contributing, specific medications are needed to address these problems.  If your pet responds to the fluid therapy, home care consisting of specific diets, phosphorus binding agents, or subcutaneous fluid therapy may be needed to maintain a satisfactory quality of life.  Anemia may develop requiring injections to stimulate the bone marrow to make new red blood cells.  Periodic evaluations of weight , kidney function, blood counts, and electrolytes are usually needed to provide optimal care.

Kidney transplantation is available at a few centers in the United States. The cost is high, lifelong immunosuppressive treatment is needed and adoption of the donor is often required.