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Preventing kidney failure in dogs and cats

Preventing Kidney Failure in Dogs and Cats

Kidney failure is the most common cause of death in cats, and the second most common cause of death in dogs.  While there is often a genetic predilection to kidney failure that leads to its occurrence in certain individual canines and felines, there are some lifestyle tips that you can follow to decrease its incidence.

Good dental care

Bacterial colonization of the outer surface of the teeth and subsequent gum infection, conditions known as periodontal disease and gingivitis, respectively, have a direct link in contributing to kidney failure in dogs and cats.  It is believed that the chronic inflammation and subsequent metabolic stress it causes leads to degenerative changes in the kidneys.  Studies indicate that dogs and cats with mid-level to severe periodontal disease and gingivitis have a 49% higher incidence of kidney failure than pets that have well maintained dental health.  So the next time your veterinarian recommends a dental cleaning, be certain to take it seriously and have it done.

Do not over feed protein to dogs

Despite it being a trendy fad to feed a pure protein diet or a diet heavily laden with protein, this practice is actually very tough on canine kidneys (and liver for that matter).  While protein is a very important dietary nutrient, it must be broken down into smaller chains to be absorbed in digestion and generates a toxic metabolic waste byproduct in the process, ammonia. The liver converts this toxic byproduct into a less toxic form called urea, to then be excreted by the kidneys in the urine as the primary component of urine.

Unlike predominantly carnivorous cats, omnivorous dogs are not as well equipped physiologically to handle disproportionately high levels of protein in the diet, due to the metabolic waste product that over taxes the kidneys over time.

Thus avoid feeding diets to normal dogs that have crude protein content of great than 24%, or greater than 27% for high performance dogs.

Clean up antifreeze spills or leaks immediately

Antifreeze has a sweet flavor that dogs and even many cats cannot resist lapping up.  There is a toxic component in antifreeze called ethylene glycol that is toxic to canine and feline kidneys, leading to acute kidney failure.

Vaccinate dogs and keep cats indoors to prevent leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a disease that any mammal (people included) can contract.  It is excreted in the urine of infected rodents and has strong ability to survive in bodies of fresh standing water, such as puddles, lakes, ponds, and marshes.  Among other devastating consequences, the bacterium infiltrates the kidneys leading to kidney failure.  Mortality rates can be as high as 50% once clinic signs set in.

Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital and CEO/Chief Editor of the veterinary information and blog online community, Web-DVM.

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