Kidney Disease in Dogs & Cats

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.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a highly-contagious, viral disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system which kills more than half of all dogs that are infected. Although vaccination programs have drastically reduced the incidence of Canine Distemper, it still occurs in domestic dogs as well as other carnivores, including raccoons, skunks and foxes. The dogs most at risk are puppies between three and six months of age as well as non-vaccinated older dogs.

Canine distemper is transmitted through bodily secretions, especially respiratory secretions. The primary way the virus travels is through the air and dogs in recovery will continue to shed the virus for several weeks after symptoms disappear. So it is very important to quarantine infected animals for the full length of time your veterinarian recommends.

Once a dog is exposed to Canine Distemper, the virus spreads rapidly through the lymph system, with lymphoid organs being infected within 2 to 5 days. By days 6 to 9, the virus has spread to the blood stream, then infects the lining of the respiratory, gastrointestinal, urogenital and central nervous systems.

Early symptoms of Canine Distemper include a fever, loss of appetite and eye inflammation. As the disease progresses, symptoms become more and more serious. Fever (103 to 106 F) usually peaks about 3 to 6 days after infection, then subsides for a few days then will peak again. Although symptoms vary, many dogs experience:

  • Conjunctivitis (infection of the eye)
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Pneumonia (including coughing and labored breathing)
  • Runny Nose Vomiting

Dogs almost always develop encephalomyelitis, which is inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. This combined with other neurological conditions is the main cause of death in a dog with distemper. Most often it is complications related to one of the following that causes death:

  • Muscle incoordination (Ataxia)
  • Depression
  • Hypersensitivity to touch, pain, etc.
  • Paralysis
  • Deterioration of Mental and Motor Skills
  • Seizures

Diagnosis of Canine Distemper is difficult because there is no one test that can determine if a dog is infected. Also, many of the symptoms of Canine Distemper mirror that of other diseases, such as bacterial pneumonia, gastroenteritis and epilepsy. Your veterinarian will use a variety of tests to determine if your dog does have Canine Distemper. Be sure to tell your vet if your dog has been exposed to wild life or other dogs that may be infected.

It is also important to protect yourself if you suspect your dog has Canine Distemper as it is possible for humans to contract an asymptomatic infection. However, being vaccinated against measles is protection against Canine Distemper Virus as well.

There is no cure for Canine Distemper, it can only be treated on a symptomatic basis. Depending on the symptoms, your vet will control any secondary infections that may arise such as conjunctivitis and pneumonia as well as any other necessary treatments to control symptoms.

The best way to prevent your dog from contracting Canine Distemper is to vaccinate annually. Vaccinations work well and can protect your dog as soon as 4 days after vaccination. One of the most effective vaccines against Canine Distemper is NeoVac DA2 from NeoTech, LLC. It is safe for puppies as young as 4 weeks of age.

If you have a dog that has died as the result of a Canine Distemper infection, the entire premises should be decontaminated, including objects and living areas with a disinfectant, such as Trifectant to prevent any further infection. Also, if you do decide to get another pet, you should wait at least a month before introducing a new puppy to prevent any further infection.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a highly contagious disease that affects dogs. It is also known as Tracheobronchitis or Bordetella. While most cases of Kennel Cough are not serious and resolve on their own, some dogs can develop serious complications. Most dogs are better in about 2 weeks.

Kennel cough can be caused by a number of different airborne bacteria (such as Bordetella bronchiseptica) and viruses (such as canine parainfluenza) or a mycoplasma (an organism somewhere between a virus and a bacteria). Usually, more than one of these are present, which is why the disease spreads quickly and easily. Dogs who travel frequently and who have contact with other dogs on a regular basis are more likely to contract the disease. This doesn’t mean that you should keep your dog completely isolated though.

By getting your dog vaccinated at an early age (some as early as 4 weeks) you can help prevent the spread of Kennel Cough. However, because the disease has a variety of causes, you will want to limit your dog’s exposure to dogs who show the symptoms of Kennel Cough. If your dog does have visitors, try not to allow them to share toys or food and water dishes. This will help to not spread the disease.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough include a dry hacking cough (almost like your dog has something stuck in his throat and he’s trying to clear it). Usually a cough spell is followed by retching and throwing up of a white, foamy liquid. Some dogs can also develop eye infections or rhinitis (an inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane). Most dogs stay active and alert, so if your dog has any of the other symptoms, isolate him from any other dogs and call your veterinarian.

Kennel cough is diagnosed through a bacterial culture or a blood test. Some veterinarian’s might also take a chest x-ray to rule out the possibility that your dog has developed pneumonia in addition to the kennel cough. If your veterinarian determines that your dog has kennel cough, you will have to keep him isolated from your other dogs. He might also prescribe and antibiotic to prevent any secondary infection and a cough suppressant.

The most important thing to keep your dog from getting the disease is to vaccinate him. There are two types of vaccines that can be used to prevent kennel cough, an intranasal and a traditional vaccine. The intranasal vaccine, Univac 2, can be given to puppies as young as 3 weeks of age. It is administered in liquid form, which is put up to your dog’s nose and they inhale it. Intranasal vaccines work well if you need quick protection (you will want to wait at least 4 days before exposing your dog to other dogs) as they are absorbed more quickly than the traditional vaccine.

The traditional vaccine is usually combined with vaccines for other disease, so if your puppy has received a 5-way or greater vaccination, such as Univac 7, he is already covered for many of the things that can cause kennel cough.