Catch it early, and believe me -there is real hope!
The causes of Chronic Kidney Failure are usually aging, when the kidneys simply do not work as well as they used to, to filter wastes from the bloodstream (as opposed to Acute Kidney Failure which can be caused by poisoning, severe infection, or other diseases.)
Now Chronic Kidney Failure often creeps up unnoticed. Your dog may just "slow down" (you attribute that to the natural aging process) or there may be "accidents" in the house, that with a well-trained dog never happened before. Even things like this can be attributed to the natural aging process.
Or....there can be hardly any signs at all! The dog appears fit and well, eating well, sleeping well, chasing frisbee!
But there are early-stage signs, and the secret of catching this disease early is being very observant for those signs.
What to look out for:
*He/she has suddenly started to drink more. (that's usually the very first sign) That can be missed, particularly if the dog drinks from different places during the day, instead of his usual water-bowl. Or it might be hot weather, so drinking more might make sense....or he/she has been racing about outside. The thing to look out for is drinking more every day. Although drinking more can also be a symptom of other disease, such as Cushing's, or Diabetes.
*"Accidents" or bed-wetting....even a little bit. Urinating in unusual places can mean other things apart from kidney issues, (often a urinary infection) but the fact is that with kidney issues, the dog's thirst increases as the kidneys are put to harder work, and produce more urine. So the dog will most likely have a very full bladder a lot of the time, and after a night's sleep, for example, it may be overwhelmed.
My dog started drinking more. That was all. She appeared totally fit and well. I took her to the vet, he ran a urine test. All normal. He told me she wasn't drinking more than the recommended amount for a dog her weight and to bring her back in a month or two if it carried on. I waited a week, it carried on, PLUS she started to wet the bed. I knew something was wrong. I insisted on a thorough bloodwork for her.
The bloodwork was all good....except the Creatinine and Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) were slightly elevated. Now normally, the vet will wait a few days and repeat the bloodwork, as these can be elevated for other reasons (hard exercise or dehydration for example)
But in her case we decided on immediate treatment. The vet said it was a good thing I had pushed him to do the bloodwork, as he normally may not have thought much was wrong with her.
She was prescribed an ACE inhibitor (Benazecare 5mg) -which increases blood flow to the kidneys. (Depending on your dog's Heart health, this may, or may not be prescribed, and should not be given unless prescribed)
She was given a course of antibiotics (in case of any possible sub-clinical infection which was not great enough to show in the bloodwork, but enough to stress the kidneys at all)
She was given a Renal Diet.
This was last October.
Her bloodwork was repeated in November, and the Creatinine and BUN had come down markedly, to the borders of "upper normal".
Again her bloodwork was repeated last week. Her BUN and Creatinine levels are now perfect, well in "normal" parameters. Hopefully they will stay that way for a long time to come.
So act fast if you see that your dog has started to drink more water -no matter how well your dog might appear to be. Caught early there is a LOT that can be done to help.