By JeanneBennett

Kidney disease, also commonly called “renal disease” or “renal failure,” can be quite common in companion animals and pets, especially as they get into their senior years.

Kidney failure, when it strikes, will make itself known in one of two ways: it can appear suddenly and is often accompanied by very severe symptoms, or it can be chronic and slow to show its effects in cats and dogs.

The severity of the onset of kidney disease is usually directly related to the underlying cause of the disease.

The kidneys of dogs and cats are similar to all mammal kidneys, including human ones. Their primary job is to filter the blood and to remove toxins that are then disposed of through urination.

In rapid onset, or acute renal failure or disease, the build-up of toxins in the blood can cause all manner of problems and discomforts for pets, up to and including death. In chronic kidney disease, symptoms are often milder, and can come on so gradually that they might not even be noticed.

There are several causes of kidney disease in both cats and dogs. These causes include the natural aging process, parasites, cancer, abnormal deposits of protein in the kidneys, certain autoimmune diseases such as FIV, inflammation, congenital disorders, infections caused by bacteria and other microorganisms, physical trauma, toxic reactions to medications, toxic reaction to poisons as well as inherited disorders, and others.

If your cat or dog has kidney disease, they can exhibit a wide variety of physical symptoms. Unfortunately, many of these symptoms also present themselves when pets are having issues with their pancreas or liver, but in any case, all of these instances, for the most part, call for a trip to the vet.

Symptoms of kidney disease can include increased or decreased thirst, increased or decreased urination, trouble controlling urination while sleeping, blood in the urine, weight loss or lack of appetite, vomiting, lack of energy, reluctance to move, problems with the coat, diarrhea, bad breath from toxins in the body, mouth ulcers, swelling of the limbs or abdomen, and others.

When you bring your pet in for treatment, the veterinarian will likely use a battery of tests to diagnose kidney disease, including a complete physical examination, a complete blood panel, and urinalysis. These are all done to help the veterinarian identify the presence, severity, and underlying cause of kidney disease.

The blood test and urinalysis are conducted to look for specific toxins in the blood, and to test the concentration of your pet’s urine. Your vet may also order X-rays or an ultrasound of the kidneys to check for tumors.

Depending on the underlying cause of your pet’s kidney disease, the dog or cat may have a very good chance of recovery. Dogs and cats can respond very well to a variety of medications and other treatments such as fluid therapy and improved nutrition.

To learn more about renal disease in dogs and cats, visit the International Renal Society at http://www.iris-kidney.com/guidelines/index.html. .

The group’s mission is to help veterinary practitioners better diagnose, understand and treat renal disease in pets. This, in no way, is intended to be a substitute for the advice of a veterinarian, but to be used as a tool to help pet owners understand what is happening with their pet and to create a dialogue between pet owners and their veterinarians.

One of the organization’s primary objectives is to establish an internationally recognized set of guidelines on the diagnosis and assessment of renal disease in small animals.

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