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The Importance of Kidney Health and Function in Dogs and Cats

pet kidney anatomy and function

Dogs and cats, like all mammals, have kidneys that perform many vital life functions. Keeping these organs healthy and recognizing early signs of disease can help your pet live a long, happy life. Keep reading to learn more about how your pet’s kidneys work.

What are kidneys and how do they work?

Like us, dogs and cats normally have two kidneys. They’re located in the abdomen, just behind the last rib. The kidneys and ureters are considered part of the upper urinary tract, while the bladder and urethra are part of the lower urinary tract.

These bean-shaped organs perform many important functions. Kidneys remove waste products from the bloodstream, regulate essential minerals like potassium and sodium, manage red blood cell production, conserve water to maintain normal hydration, and produce urine.

What problems can dogs and cats have when their kidneys are damaged?

Normal kidney function is essential for life. Pets can develop two types of kidney problems: acute kidney failure and chronic kidney failure. Click on the following links to learn more about kidney disease in dogs and cats:

Kidney Failure in Dogs

Kidney Failure in Cats

With acute and chronic kidney failure, the kidneys fail to work as they should, and pets can experience dehydration, inability to remove waste products from the bloodstream. This causes imbalances of potassium, sodium, and other electrolytes and may produce less or more urine depending on the type and severity of disease.

Signs of Kidney Damage or Injury in Pets

  • Vomiting and no appetite (anorexia)
  • Lack of energy, weak and unsteady when walking
  • Increased or decreased drinking
  • Increased or decreased urination

Can kidney damage be reversed or is it permanent?

Acute kidney damage can sometimes be reversed. An example of this might be an infection that is diagnosed and treated quickly. In some cases, such as antifreeze toxicity, there is only a small window of time where diagnosis and treatment can reverse kidney damage.

How to Keep Your Pet’s Kidneys Healthy

Water to keep your pet hydrated and proper nutrition are key to keeping your pet’s kidneys working properly. While dry food is convenient, sometimes it’s important to include wet food in our pet’s diet. Make sure your pet has access to clean water every day. Water and food bowls should be cleaned daily.

Cats prefer fresh clean water. Providing a water fountain often encourages them to drink more water which supports normal and healthy kidney function.

Keep toxic plants, household cleaning products, essential oils, antifreeze, and toxic foods away from your pets. If your pet eats or licks anything that could potentially damage their kidneys, contact your vet or pet emergency hospital right away.

Read more about potential kidney toxins by clicking on the following:

What plants are toxic to dogs?
7 Lesser-Known Foods That Are Toxic to Dogs
Can My Pet Eat Grapes and Raisins? The Truth About Grape Toxicity in Dogs and Cats

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