Rare diseases of the urinary system
Animals usually have no signs of kidney disease until they are at Stages III or IV, when their kidneys are working at less than 25% of their usual capacity. Exceptions to this include other illnesses that affect the entire body along with the kidneys, or kidneys that become unusually inflamed or sore and cause vomiting or pain. Veterinarians may be able to detect a problem in a blood test or on physical examination even before the dog starts to display signs of kidney failure. Usually, the earliest signs are excessive thirst and urination. However, these signs may signal other diseases as well, and they do not begin to appear until Stage II or III. After this, there are usually no new signs until Stage IV, when affected dogs vomit and are sluggish. As the disease progresses over months, other problems begin. These include loss of appetite, weight loss, dehydration, sores in the mouth, vomiting, and diarrhea.
To diagnose chronic kidney disease, veterinarians generally use a combination of x-rays, ultrasonography, urine and blood tests, and physical examination. These tests are also used to check the response to treatment and monitor complications related to the kidney disease.
With proper treatment, even dogs with as little as 5% of normal kidney function can survive for a long time. The recommended treatment depends on the stage of disease. Identifying and treating complications, such as high blood pressure or urinary tract infections, needs to be done as well. All dogs with kidney disease should see their veterinarian every 3 to 6 months, or more frequently if there are problems. During these visits, the veterinarian will do tests on the dog's blood and urine.
Although there is no way to prevent chronic kidney disease from getting progressively worse, there are some things you can do to slow the process. These include making sure the dog's diet does not contain too much phosphorus, supplementing your dog's food with fish oil, and giving all medications as directed. Your veterinarian may suggest special food which has been designed for animals with kidney disease. If there are problems with the acidity of your pet's blood, or if the levels of phosphorus in your pet's blood are unhealthy, your veterinarian may prescribe a supplement or vitamin.
In the later stages of kidney disease (III and IV), the dog should be taken to the veterinarian every 1 to 2 months. At this stage, treatments will focus on easing some of the signs of the disease. Some approaches include limiting the amount or type of protein in your dog's diet (your veterinarian can suggest special food formulated for pets with kidney disease) and medications. Sometimes veterinarians will recommend intravenous fluids or feeding tubes. At this point, there are very few options. Dialysis machines, which do the job of the kidneys by filtering the blood, can prolong life, but dialysis is not feasible for most dogs. A kidney transplant can be done, but requires immune-suppressing drugs to prevent the body from rejecting the new kidney, which can cause other problems.
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