Canine renal dysplasia – causes, symptoms and diagnosis

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When we hear the term kidney failure, we associate it with older dogs, however, there is a congenital renal disorder that can trigger kidney failure in puppies with a few weeks of life. This disorder is known as canine renal dysplasia, and it is an inherited disease that is present from birth.

The symptoms are usually related to a failure in kidney function, highlighting the presence of vomiting and diarrhea, weight loss, anorexia and growth retardation, among others. Next, we explain what are the causes of this disease, its symptoms, diagnosis and what options currently exist for its treatment.

Index of contents

  • 1 What is canine renal dysplasia?
  • 2 What are the causes of kidney dysplasia in dogs?
  • 3 Symptoms of renal dysplasia
  • 4 How is renal dysplasia diagnosed?
  • 5 Treatment for renal dysplasia
    • 5.1 Kidney specific diet
    • 5.2 Fluid therapy and correct hydration
    • 5.3 Medicines
    • 5.4 Alternative therapies
    • 5.5 Dialysis or Transplant
  • 6 Can kidney dysplasia be prevented?

What is canine renal dysplasia?

Canine renal dysplasia it is a congenital disease (dogs are born with it) characterized by one or both kidneys not developing normally ; They are small in size, deformed, and have an immature internal structure. This structural defect usually results in poor kidney function leading to kidney failure or even complete kidney failure.

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What are the causes of kidney dysplasia in dogs?

Currently the exact causes of this pathology are not fully understood. There are certain breeds that are usually more affected by this alteration, so it is established that it can be a family disease that would be inherited through a recessive gene. Some of the predisposed breeds are Golden Retriever, Lhasa Apso, Miniature Schnauzer, Samoyed, Shih Tzu, Pinscher and Poodle, among others.

The possible relationship between this pathology and some intrauterine infections during pregnancy is also being investigated, as it is suspected that canine herpesvirus infections in pregnancy may be the cause of renal dysplasia in puppies.

Symptoms of renal dysplasia

Although renal dysplasia is an alteration that is present from the birth of the puppy, frequently symptoms do not appear until weeks, months and even after several years of the dog’s life. Sometimes it may not show any symptoms, or the symptoms are mild enough to go unnoticed by the owner.

The signs of kidney dysplasia vary depending on the severity of the condition, the most common being: increased water consumption (polydipsia), increased amount of urine (polyuria), presence of blood in the urine, loss of appetite, weight loss, growth retardation in puppies, lack of activity (lethargy), vomiting, diarrhea, presence of mouth ulcers and bad breath.

How is renal dysplasia diagnosed?

If our dog shows symptoms of renal dysplasia, the vet should be consulted to carry out a complete physical examination and the necessary diagnostic tests to confirm that this alteration is involved.

Tests usually include blood tests, urinalysis, abdominal ultrasound to assess kidney structure, and kidney biopsy. A kidney biopsy definitively diagnoses the condition.

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Treatment for renal dysplasia

There is no curative treatment for this condition, since what has happened is that the kidney structure has not developed properly and the kidney is not working well.

In most cases, if both kidneys are dysfunctional the dog will end up suffering a renal insufficiency and the long-term prognosis is usually not good. If only one kidney is affected, the prognosis is more favorable; however, these cases are not common since the disease is usually bilateral.

Treatments for renal dysplasia are aimed at promoting normal kidney function and are palliative, not curative. The most common treatment measures include:

Kidney specific diet

The change to a renal diet is a fundamental part of the treatment. Currently there are commercial diets formulated to protect kidney health, since they are low in salt, phosphorus and protein, and easy to metabolize. Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial.

Fluid therapy and correct hydration

Dogs with renal dysplasia become dehydrated easily and often require intravenous or subcutaneous rehydration to restore fluid levels. Daily or bi-weekly subcutaneous fluid therapy is very beneficial for animals with kidney failure.

In dogs with renal dysplasia, a correct intake of water should be encouraged, ensuring that they have regular access to fresh and clean water, and increasing the consumption of water through the diet giving moist food (kidney diet cans).


In certain cases and with the advancement of the disease, it will be necessary to administer medications to treat complications associated with renal dysplasia. For example, if there is vomiting or diarrhea, the vet will determine the need to administer an antiemetic or antidiuretic to prevent dehydration of the dog. Medication for hypertension may also be necessary.

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Alternative therapies

Ozone therapy is currently being used in veterinary medicine as therapy to help the treatment of dogs with kidney failure. The results show a protective effect in preserving kidney function thanks to its antioxidant action on damaged structures.

It is a minimally invasive technique, being administered intravenously or intrarectally.

Dialysis or Transplant

In severe cases, the possibility of establishing renal dialysis treatment or a kidney transplant can be considered. However, these procedures are expensive and only performed at selected referral hospitals.

Can kidney dysplasia be prevented?

As it is a congenital disease, we have no way of preventing it, but since there is a high probability of an inherited factor in this disease, it is essential that the reproduction of dogs affected by this pathology be avoided so that genetic transmission does not occur. future puppies.