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Silent Killer: Chronic Kidney Disease in Dogs

Updated on August 18, 2013

Sirius about 6 months before we lost him

Sirius- My Star Dog

Sirius and I always had an interesting relationship. He was my first rescue dog and the moment I saw him I knew we needed each other. He was kept in a small chicken coop behind the garage, rarely getting anymore attention than when they brought him food and water. I loaded him in the car and it seemed like he knew I was saving him.

He grasped basic commands instantly and never once had an accident in the house, despite never living in a house before. He was the perfect dog.

Eleven years later

Fast forward to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Sirius was always nervous during storms, I'm sure it was a side effect from being alone in the chicken coop during storms. He was shaking and vomitted twice during the height of the storm. Aside from that his behavior was normal, he continued to play and be his usual self.

A few days later he vomitted 3 times in a row, all water. That night he was laying in his bed whining and we decided he had to go the vet and we couldn't make him wait until morning. So we called our vet, which happens to be the 24 hour emergency vet in our area, made an emergency appointment for that night and brought him in.

They took him in the back to check him out and drew blood. Sirius came back in and they said it would be a little while until the results were ready. So we waited for the test results, Sirius' head on my lap as we sat on the floor waiting.

It was about midnight when they came in with the results. I looked at the vet and knew we were about to get some bad news, but I never expected the diagnosis. Chronic Kidney Disease.

Creatinine Levels in Various Stages of Kidney Failure

Normal Range
Stage I
Stage II
Stage III
Stage IV

Eleven years later

To this day it doesn't feel real, how could he get such a serious condition without me knowing? We fed him a high end diet with one of the best vitamins you can get. He was a pampered boy who never had a milkbone, he only ever had all organic and natural foods and treats. I immediately blamed myself and felt guilty for not picking up on this serious medical condition sooner, allowing my boy to suffer in silence as was his way.

His creatinine levels were through the roof, reaching 7 when they should have been no higher than 1.2, and we decided that we would try and bring them down. Sirius was admitted to the clinic and put on fluids to try and flush his overworked kidneys out and lower the creatinine levels.

We visited him every night, not wanting him to think he was abandoned. He seemed to be improving while on the fluids, his creatnine levels dropped to tolerable levels dropping to 3. He would have needed to be on a special diet but if the levels could be stabilized we would be able to bring him home by the end of the week.

Wednesday his IV drip had become clogged and his creatinine levels went up a point, still within a tolerable level but disheartening news. We were hoping they would stay at the lower level he had reached on his third night on the drip. They continued to administer the IV drip for a few more days and his numbers leveled out around 3.

During his stay at the vet Sirius was still his playful, bouncy self. Even bobbing and weaving to avoid the leash the vet tech was trying to put on him at the end of one of our visits. He wanted to go home with us and didn't understand why we wouldn't take him with us. To this day, I still cry thinking about how abandoned and confused he must have felt every time we left him.

Sirius was taken off the drip Friday night to see if his creatinine levels would stay lower or if they would rise. By Sunday, the day the vet has told us we could bring him home, his creatinine levels went back up to 5 and it was clear his kidneys were just too damaged to function on his own.

Absolutely devastated, we decided we couldn't keep him at the clinic and would have to put him to sleep. I hugged him and began crying, he licked my face and snuggled closer to me. I looked into those blue eyes that matched my own and appologized for letting this happen to him.

The vet came in to put him to sleep, they had asked if we didn't want to be there for it but I have always held my dogs as they were put to sleep. I can't imagine them going through that without me hugging them and telling them how loved they are.

We had Sirius' bed from home brought up from the kennel he had been staying in and asked that his favorite vet tech come see him before letting him go. Isabella was crying as much as I was, that was just the hold that Sirius had over people, you could not meet him and not love him instantly.

We laid down on his bed and I buried my face in his neck, stroking his face. I was telling him I loved him and I was sorry.

I could see the pink liquid that would end his suffering, the smell of it always makes me want to vomit. As the Sodium Pentobarbital injection was administered Sirius panicked. I imagine it feels like you're falling, I just held him and told him it's ok, mommy's here. He licked my face and then snuggled his face into my chest before losing conciousness.

Everytime this injection is about to be given I want to stop it, there's no going back, no changing your mind. And with Sirius it was the hardest because despite me knowing how sick he was, he wasn't showing obvious signs of suffering. He was coherent and loving, as he always was, but the test results told us how sick he really was. And so he was gone.

Symptoms of Kidney Disease in Dogs
Excessive water consumption and frequent urination
Digestive Problems- Including diarrhea and vomiting
General Fatigue
Unexplained Weight Loss

How to avoid this tragedy in your life

Sirius was about 12 when we had to put him down, average age for a Border Collie, but I know we could have done things to prevent this. I'm hoping by sharing these things I can help your bestfriend avoid the suffering mine underwent.

1) Yearly blood work. We unfortunately couldn't afford this at the time, having just had major surgery on our cat for a urinary tract blockage, but knowing what I know now we would have done it anyway. The blood work would have been only a few hundred dollars as apposed to the 5 thousand that we ended of paying to try and save Sirius at the end. After losing Sirius and our older cat to a heart attack in the same week, we took our kittens to the vet to run tests and ended up having one diagnosed with asthma.

2) Use a vet you trust. While our vet is very good, they often push tests and proceedures on us that we feel is a waste of money, which is why we resisted the blood work when we thought everything was fine. They wanted me to have a chest x-ray on Sirius while we were trying to level out his kidneys. When we asked if that would help the current issue she said no but it would give the big picture of how he was handling the fluids. Which would have been fine if his prognosis hadn't been so poor but we were already putting as much money as we could by boarding him at the clinic for a full week while he got his IV drip. Two years before that they wanted me to have my 14 year old dog spayed and have her teeth cleaned, she had a stroke and was put down three months later.

3) Watch for sudden weight loss. Six months before we lost Sirius we took him in for his yearly exam. The vet commented on his amazing weight loss, which I was alarmed of because we hadn't changed anything about his lifestyle. At this appointment there was no concern on the vet's part and no mention of running tests, despite a loss of 10 pounds in a year without any changes.

© 2013 Aimee


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