When to Euthanize a Dog with Kidney Failure or Disease?

Putting your beloved pet down is a decision that can be heart-wrenching for any pet parent. But it can be equally difficult to see the pet suffering from a health condition on which treatments do not work anymore.

In such cases, you need to step up and make the best possible decision for the pet.

Chronic diseases of the kidney can be progressive. Unfortunately, the signs may show themselves when the disease has already progressed.

The dog’s quality of life can severely drop in the end stages. You may notice signs like pale gums, loss of appetite, mouth ulcers, and loss of coordination.

You will then have to face the query, dog kidney failure – when to euthanize? First, let us look at the factors that make up the answer to this query. Then, the article will also go through kidney failure causes, symptoms, treatment options offered, care tips, and if you can prevent such diseases.

Dog Kidney Failure – When To Euthanize?

Dog Kidney Failure - When To Euthanize?
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The dog’s kidney plays a vital role in filtering waste from its body. Its other roles include:

  • Balancing nutrients
  • Affecting red blood cell production
  • Regulating fluid around body cells
  • Blood concentration
  • Acid-base balance in the blood
  • Overall maintains metabolic balance

So, any damage to the kidney can affect several processes in the dog’s body. Kidney failure happens when one or both organs stop working efficiently.

There are treatments available depending on when the disease is diagnosed and the degree of damage. But if the damage is too severe, treatments may not produce desired results. The dog’s condition will then continue to worsen.

It may have depression, refuse to eat or drink, have severe weight loss, and be in constant pain. Dealing with these symptoms daily with no cure in sight can take a toll on the dog and you, the caretaker.

Quality of life is what should be your major consideration. Can the dog perform simple tasks like drinking, eating, and walking on its own? If not, then the vet will put forth euthanasia as an option.

As emotionally challenging the decision is, you need to make it from a logical perspective. If the dog cannot perform basic life functions and is in constant distress and pain, despite your best effort, prolonging its suffering would be cruel.

If the decision is overwhelming, please talk to the vet, get a second opinion, seek help from loved ones or reach out to other pet parents.

What Does Kidney Failure in Dogs Mean?

What Does Kidney Failure in Dogs Mean?
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A dog is considered to have kidney failure when the organs cannot efficiently clear waste products from the blood. The kidney tissues get destroyed, and unlike the liver, they cannot regenerate.

The increase of waste products in the blood and tissue damage can lead to quick progression of the condition and affect other bodily processes.

There are two types of causes when it comes to kidney failure in dogs:

  • Acute: In this case, kidney health can worsen quickly – for example, over a matter of hours or days. Possible causes could be chemicals or infections.
  • Chronic: In this case, the kidneys have been degenerating over a period. Age is often the common cause. Kidney’s have a large reserve set aside so they can perform their roles. But, due to this same reserve, chronic kidney diseases are often diagnosed when 2/3rd of the organ is already damaged.

What are the Causes of Kidney Failure or Disease in Dogs?

The causes of kidney failure can range from infections and trauma to hereditary and congenital abnormalities. It could also be a result of other conditions like cancer. Let us look at some of the causes in detail.

1. Aging

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This is one of the typical causes of kidney failure in canines. As the pet starts aging, its organs will also begin to wear out. Over time the kidneys will lose their ability to function optimally.

Smaller dogs can see an onset of kidney disease when they are about ten to fourteen years old. On the other hand, large dog breeds may experience kidney issues as early as six to seven years old.

Thus, it is crucial to check senior dogs when they show seemingly innocent symptoms like increased water intake.

2. Bacteria or Fungal Infection

Bacterial infections are pretty common in the canine world. For example, most dogs deal with urinary tract infections (UTIs). If left unchecked, the bacteria can travel up the dog’s body and find their way to the kidneys.

If the dog develops an infection from a tick bite, it can lead to Lyme disease. And this disease impacts the kidneys and hinders them from their job.

The kidneys can also be affected by fungal infections like Valley Fever. This is a soil-borne fungus that first affects the respiratory system, but it can also spread to other parts of the body.



You will be surprised how many everyday household items can be toxic for your pets. For example, you may love having chocolate, but the same can be toxic for your dog. In addition, according to PetMD, other food items like raisins and grapes can be nephrotoxic to canines.

The typical medication you take, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can again be toxic to dogs.

Antifreeze is a common solution used to regulate engines in extreme temperatures. If the dog finds its way to the garage and gulps this sweet liquid, it can lead to crystal formation in the kidney filtration system.

If you store chemicals at home, keep them safely away from pets. Ingesting these toxins can deteriorate a dog’s condition in a matter of hours.


If the dog is involved in a car accident, falls from a height, or takes a direct hit to the kidneys, it could lead to irreversible damage.

This is one of the uncommon causes of kidney failure, but still possible. Measures like having the dog on a leash when outside, using safety gates or railings, and monitoring could reduce the chances of accidents.

5. Hereditary Conditions

Hereditary Conditions
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In case of hereditary or congenital conditions, the dog’s kidney may wear out sooner or develop health complications. These dogs tend to have shorter lifespans compared to their healthier counterparts.

Polycystic kidney disease is typically found in Bull Terriers. The dog’s kidneys are prone to developing cysts reducing optimal functionality. Hereditary nephritis is one more condition in which the Terriers can show signs of kidney failure as early as 1 – 1 ½ years.

The dog could be born with one or no kidneys. Or the dog’s kidneys may not have developed entirely or abnormally at the time of birth.

6. Autoimmune Diseases

In this type of disease, the dog’s body starts fighting against itself. As a result, the immune system attacks healthy cells, leading to organ damage.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is one such disease that can show symptoms similar to skin, nail, or joint issues. As the disease advances, it starts affecting parts of the body, including the kidney.

7. Cancer

Both cancerous and benign tumors can affect a dog’s kidneys. Cancers or tumors originating in the kidneys are rare. They usually start in different body parts, and the kidneys get involved as a secondary reaction.

Although uncommon, primary tumors are found in kidneys like nephroblastoma, hemangiosarcoma, and lymphoma.

It is renal carcinomas that are the most aggressive in dogs. This cancer can be highly metastatic. In addition, it can affect other abdominal organs and lungs.

What Symptoms Do Such Dogs Show?

What Symptoms Do Such Dogs Show?
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When it comes to kidney failure, increased water intake is one of the earliest signs you may notice.

As the kidney loses its ability to filter waste from the blood, the blood flow to the kidney will increase. This is because the body senses the toxins in the blood and sends them to the kidney for filtration, the kidney removes only limited toxins, and the cycle continues.

This cycle produces a large amount of urine. Excessive urination means dehydration; thus, you will notice an increase in water intake. The dog could show general weakness and lose its enthusiasm for tasks it loved.

As these symptoms are common for several other health conditions and may not even register in a pet parent’s mind, kidney failure tends to have a delayed diagnosis.

Once the condition advances, you might see symptoms like:

  • Pale gums
  • Ulcers in mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Foul breath
  • Depression
  • Issues standing or walking, drunken behavior

How is Kidney Failure Diagnosed in Dogs?

The vet will perform a urine and blood analysis to test kidney function.

If the urine has low specific gravity or has an increased amount of protein, it could indicate decreased kidney function.

The blood is tested to see the levels of two specific waste products:

  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
  • Blood creatinine (CREA)

An increase in the amount of these waste products again indicates decreased kidney function.

To determine the extent of the damage, other factors such as red and white blood cell count, calcium, sodium, and potassium, among others, are considered.

What Treatment is Available for Kidney Failure?

What Treatment is Available for Kidney Failure?
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The treatment depends on the extent of the kidney damage. If the condition is caught early, the dog may have a decent lifestyle for a few months or years with treatments such as dieresis and long-term care.

In cases where the kidney function has decreased drastically, treatments may or may not prove to be effective. Unfortunately, there is no way to measure or guarantee an outcome. The vet may suggest an aggressive approach as the dog could possibly be able to resume a normal lifestyle with continuous care.

Your dog’s response and the quality of follow-up care you provide can affect its prognosis.

The treatment plan can involve administering intravenous fluids to flush out the toxins from the body. It can help decrease the pressure on the kidneys and create a healthier environment. In addition, medications may be provided to control any other clinical signs.

If the dog responds well to the treatment, you will have to take care of its diet at home. A low protein, low phosphorus diet can decrease the kidney’s workload. In addition, some dogs may require continual fluid therapy to maintain the level of electrolytes and aid the elimination of toxins from the blood.

The vet may provide long-term medications to maintain the level of calcium, boost red blood cell production, and manage blood pressure, among others.

What are the Stages of Kidney Failure?

If the dog has chronic kidney failure, then there is no permanent cure for the condition. However, the treatment can help manage symptoms, delay progression and allow the dog to enjoy a normal life.

Kidney failure has four stages of severity, with one being the lowest and four being the highest. In the early stages, the symptoms may be mild. But with every successive stage, the dogs can show multiple signs with increasing severity.  

In the end stages, the kidney will try to perform its function but may eventually fail due to excessive damage.

How Long Can Dogs with Kidney Failure Live?

How Long Can Dogs with Kidney Failure Live?
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If the kidney issue is diagnosed early on and the damage to the organ is minimal, the first phase of treatment should help the kidney resume its function to a certain level. Then, the dog can live anywhere from a few months to years with diet restrictions, medications, and therapies.

It is difficult to provide a number as the lifespan can significantly vary from one dog to another. However, according to the International Renal Interest Society, on average, dogs in stage 1 can live beyond 400 days; in the next stage, the range is limited to 200 to 400 days.

When the condition is diagnosed in stage 3, they can live anywhere from 110 to 200 days, and in the end stage, the life expectancy falls to 14 to 80 days. In the end stages, you will have to consider the question, dog kidney failure – when to euthanize? Always consider the quality of life and response to treatments, regardless of the stage.

How to Care for Dogs with Chronic Kidney Failure?

Diet is one of the easiest ways of managing chronic kidney conditions. The diet will revolve around reducing protein waste and metabolic toxins. Please strictly follow the vet-recommended diet to relieve pressure on the kidneys and help the dog go through its normal routine.

Phosphorus intake needs to be reduced. This can be done through diet and the use of phosphate binders. The binders can help bind the excess phosphates in the intestinal tract, helping maintain their level in the blood.

In the later stages, when the dog shows these clinical signs, symptomatic treatment can be provided. You will have to give fluid therapy at home a couple of times a day or week, depending on the stage of kidney failure.

If the dog cannot eat anymore, a feeding tube will be placed. If it develops uremia, then dialysis will be recommended.  

In the last stages of kidney failure, you try to manage symptoms and keep the dog as comfortable as possible.

Can Kidney Disease and Failure Be Prevented?

Prevention may not be possible when it comes to hereditary, congenital, and aging-related causes of chronic kidney failure. However, you can manage the dog’s health by feeding it a good, nutritional diet, maintaining cardiovascular health with exercise, and caring for conditions like diabetes.

These practices may not prevent kidney failure, but they can slow the progression and let the dog live a normal life for as long as possible.

When it comes to causes of acute kidney failure, you can surely try to prevent them. For example, common human foods like grapes, chocolate, onions, garlic, and xylitol can be harmful to dogs and contribute to kidney failure. So ensure to keep such food items away from the dog.

Do not let the dog go garbage hunting. Keep house cleaning agents and other chemicals at a safe distance. Accidents can still happen, but removing toxins from the dog’s immediate environment can significantly reduce its chances.


Dog kidney failure – when to euthanize? This is a question that no pet parent would want to deal with. But, you must be strong and decide logically what would be best for the pet.

In the case of the end stages of chronic kidney failure, the dog will show symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, severe weight loss, depression, lethargy, and drunken behavior. The symptoms may increase in frequency and severity as the condition advances.

You need to answer questions like, is the dog drinking water, eating its food, walking around on its own? If not, the disease has affected the dog’s quality of life, and it can no longer perform essential functions.

In such cases, prolonging the dog’s suffering when there is no cure can be cruel. Letting go can be difficult, but it might be the right choice.

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