Baltimore County: National Kidney Month & Kidney Disease in Dogs and Cats

mt. carmel animal hospital Kidney Disease in Dogs and Cats

Learn more about kidney disease in dogs and cats.

Kidney disease in pets can be caused by numerous conditions that negatively impact their kidneys’ and related organs’ health and functioning. In honor of National Kidney Month, Mount Carmel Animal Hospital in Baltimore County shares information about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of kidney disease in dogs and cats.

What is Kidney Disease?

A healthy pet’s kidneys function to regulate hydration, release the necessary hormones to make red blood cells, eliminate toxins and maintain an average balance of electrolytes. If your dog or cat experiences kidney failure, the kidneys will no longer perform these functions efficiently. While kidney problems can be problematic for any pet parent, don’t lose hope if your veterinarian has diagnosed your furry friend with a kidney issue that might lead to kidney failure. In addition, there are two renal failure types in pets:

  • Acute renal failure: Most commonly linked to toxins or infections, this type of kidney failure causes kidney function to decline suddenly.
  • Chronic renal failure: This kidney failure type consists of a more gradual loss of kidney function. Also, degeneration linked with geriatric decline is often to blame.


Kidney disease is seen in 0.5% – 1.0% of dogs and 1.0-3.0 % in young cats. Geriatric cats are highly prone to kidney disease, with about 80% of that population affected! Any condition that affects the kidneys can cause kidney disease. They are:

Geriatric Degeneration

This is the most prevalent cause of kidney disease in pets. The process involves cells in aging kidneys declining, and dying.

Congenital Disease

Numerous inherited conditions, such as abnormal development and cysts, can lead to abnormal kidney functions.


These infections can be transmitted by drinking or swimming in contaminated water. It can also cause your pet’s kidneys to become inflamed and renal cells to be destroyed. Dogs are especially prone to kidney failure as a consequence of leptospirosis and Lyme disease.


Known as kidney poisoning, toxicosis can harm the kidneys’ cells and occurs when your dog ingests poisons like chocolate or antifreeze, or certain medications. Cats can develop kidney failure as a result of lily toxicity.


Signs of chronic kidney disease in dogs and cats may start out subtle and gradually progress to severe. The most commonly noted symptoms include an increased volume of urine in the bladder, drinking too much and producing large volumes of urine, lack of appetite, overall weakness due to low potassium in the blood, and general depression connected with the elevation of waste products in blood.

By the time your pet experiences symptoms of renal failure, the disease has advanced. As your pet’s disease progresses, you might notice signs such as lethargy, ulcers in the mouth, blood in their urine, pale gums, significant weight loss, breath that smells like chemicals, vomiting, a significant decrease in appetite, and even drunken behavior or uncoordinated movement like stumbling.


A veterinarian at Mt. Carmel Animal Hospital will complete diagnostic blood and urine evaluations to detect the presence of any abnormalities. These tests will be able to tell us how advanced your dog or cat’s kidney disease is. Other diagnostics like radiographs or ultrasounds might also be conducted to check for underlying causes of renal disease. Evaluating the appearance of the kidneys on imaging can also help determine the severity of the disease.


The severity of symptoms will determine the appropriate treatments. Most commonly, your pet will be treated with diuresis. During this process, your pet will be hospitalized for aggressive IV fluid therapy. This therapy helps flush the kidneys and clear out the toxins that have built up as a result of the kidneys not functioning properly. After the completion of diuresis, you may be sent home with fluids to perform subcutaneous administration for maintenance.

Additionally, aggressive treatments might consist of hospitalization for dialysis or even a kidney transplant. These types of treatments are highly specialized, performed by a select number of practices or universities, and only indicated for a small number of cases. Kidney transplants are currently only available for our feline patients and are only performed by three veterinary universities.

Remember that chronic renal disease is not curable. Prognosis links with the disease’s severity. As your pet progresses via stages of renal disease, survival time is likely to shorten.

Ultimately, treatments are meant to minimize the work the kidneys need to perform. In addition to supplementation and fluid therapy, your veterinarian might also suggest diet changes to reduce the strain on the kidney. These treatments in combination will not reverse kidney damage but can enhance your pet’s quality of life and potentially limit the disease progression, leading to a longer lifespan.


Mount Carmel Animal Hospital has been serving the Northern Baltimore/Southern York community for over 30 years and is proud to be an independently operated, small animal practice committed to excellence in veterinary medicine and client service. From grooming to wellness services, along with Canine Life Skills Training Courses, and surgical procedures, we have the expertise that will best serve the needs of you and your pet. Contact us at 410-343-0200 and follow us on Facebook!

This entry was posted on Friday, March 3rd, 2023 at 10:14 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.