The kidneys are a bean shaped organ in the lower back that filters the body’s waste and turns it into urine. They help regulate the balance of certain chemicals, blood pressure, metabolism and produce a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production, called erytropoiten.
In the kidneys there are thousands of little tubes call nephrons, these structures filter and reabsorb the fluids that keep the body in balance. They are susceptible to damage from many causes, including poison, aging, infection, trauma, cancer, autoimmune diseases and genetics. If the kidneys are severely damaged, they can function with as little as 25 percent of its original nephrons.
When damage is greater than 25 percent, the remaining nephrons are unable to compensate, causing kidney failure. Kidneys that are failing are unable to clear the blood of toxins, such as urea and creatinine. This can cause the kidneys to produce extremely dilute urine or urine that is high in proteins.
The first signs of kidney disease in dogs and cats is often in increased thirst. Increased toxins and waste in the body signals the brain that it is dehydrated and the dog or cat will drink more water to compensate. This also causes increased urine flow, making your dog or cat have to urinate more often.
This increased intake of water and increased urination causes the urine to become more and more dilute, but the urine is not eliminating toxins from the body because the kidneys are not functioning properly. This can lead to weight loss, inability to perform normal metabolic processes, tissue repair and energy metabolism. Also, because water-soluble vitamins, such as B-Vitamins are washed out with the urine, your dog or cat can also experience hypovitaminosis (or vitamin deficiency).
If your veterinarian suspects your dog or cat might have kidney problems, he will perform a variety of blood and urine tests. Depending on if your pet has acute or chronic kidney failure, your veterinarian will prescribe a course of treatment that usually contains medication and changes in diet. Prescription food for kidney failure is available from Hill’s Prescription Diet and is specially designed to assist the kidneys in processing waste. Dietary changes primarily consist of restricting the amount of protein, phosphorus and sodium in the diet.