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Kidney Infections in Dogs

What Are Kidney Infections in Dogs?

Kidney infections, caused primarily by bacteria, are infections that mainly target the kidneys. While not overly common, dogs with a history of bladder infections are at a heightened risk. These infections can occur in dogs of any age but are more frequently diagnosed in middle-aged to older females.

Kidney infections pose a grave threat. Whether severe or chronic, they can cause significant damage to the kidneys, potentially leading to kidney failure. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from a kidney infection, it’s crucial to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian promptly.

Symptoms

The symptoms of kidney infections in dogs may not be immediately apparent. Initially, dogs might exhibit subtle signs of being unwell. However, over time, additional symptoms commonly arise, such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fever
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Presence of blood in the urine
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Accidents indoors
  • Urinating frequently in small amounts
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Causes

The causes of kidney infections in dogs often stem from the bladder, initiated by bacteria traveling up the urethra—a tube connecting the bladder to the exterior. Typically, bacteria from feces are the primary culprits behind bladder and kidney infections. While the urinary tract possesses natural defenses against infection, various health issues can compromise these defenses.

Underlying factors contributing to kidney infections include:

  • Chronic kidney disease: Inflammation and dilute urine associated with this condition increase susceptibility to urinary tract infections.
  • Anatomic abnormalities: Some dogs are born with structural irregularities predisposing them to urinary tract infections. For instance, an aberrant ureter draining into the urethra facilitates bacterial migration to the kidney.
  • Urinary stones: These can damage the urinary tract’s inner surface, rendering it more prone to infection.
  • Diabetes: Dogs with diabetes excrete dilute urine containing sugar, creating an optimal environment for bacterial growth.
  • Cushing’s disease: Elevated cortisol levels suppress the immune system and result in dilute urine, heightening infection risk.
  • Urinary tract cancer: Tumors within the urinary tract cause bleeding, inflammation, and structural abnormalities, increasing infection susceptibility.
  • Immunosuppressive medications: Dogs on immune-suppressing drugs face an elevated risk of infection.

While these underlying health conditions make kidney infections more likely, there are instances where kidney infections manifest seemingly without warning.

Diagnosis

When suspecting a kidney infection in a dog, it’s crucial to seek veterinary evaluation. The veterinarian will initiate the diagnosis by inquiring about the dog’s overall health and observed symptoms. A physical examination will follow, coupled with recommended basic lab tests including a complete blood cell count (CBC), a blood chemistry panel, and a urinalysis. These tests help identify signs of infection and assess kidney function.

Distinguishing between a bladder infection (more common) and kidney involvement (rarer but more severe) in cases of urinary tract infections can be challenging. Abdominal X-rays may reveal kidney enlargement or other abnormalities, but ultrasound is the preferred method for detecting kidney infection evidence.

Veterinarians may opt to collect urine directly from the bladder or kidneys using a sterile needle and syringe, guided by ultrasound. This sample is then sent to the lab for culture and sensitivity testing. This process involves cultivating any bacteria present in the urine and testing various antibiotics to determine the most effective treatment for the infection.

Treatment

Home remedies aren’t effective for treating kidney infections in dogs. Prescription antibiotics are necessary for treatment, with veterinarians selecting an appropriate antibiotic initially and adjusting based on the results of the dog’s urine culture and sensitivity test.

Dogs with mild symptoms may receive oral antibiotics and be allowed to return home. However, more severely affected dogs may require hospitalization for administration of injectable antibiotics, fluid therapy, and any additional necessary treatments.

Living and Management

Dogs diagnosed with kidney infections typically need to undergo antibiotic therapy for 10–14 days. Once the dog appears to have returned to its normal state, the veterinarian may wait for one to two weeks after completing the treatment before scheduling a recheck to confirm the complete resolution of the kidney infection.

Prevention

Preventing kidney infections in dogs primarily involves promptly and thoroughly treating bladder infections, as most kidney infections originate from them. If you observe any signs of a bladder infection in your dog, it’s essential to seek veterinary attention, including:

  • Discomfort during urination
  • Increased frequency of urination in small amounts
  • Accidents indoors
  • Abnormal urine coloration
  • Excessive licking around the urinary opening

Additionally, if your dog has underlying health issues predisposing them to bladder or kidney infections, your veterinarian can devise a monitoring plan to help prevent such infections.

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