Renal Dysplasia in Dogs

Shih tzu on exam table with a veterinarian listening to it with a stethoscope

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Renal dysplasia is a disease that affects the kidneys of a young dog. Dogs have two kidneys and one or both may be affected by this problem. Pet owners with dogs that are diagnosed with kidney disease or that have at risk breeds should be educated on renal dysplasia so they can better understand what type of treatment outcome to expect.

What is Renal Dysplasia in Dogs?

Renal dysplasia is the abnormal development of one or both kidneys in a dog. Inside the kidneys are units called nephrons and for dogs who have renal dysplasia, these nephrons are abnormally formed. Depending on how many malformed nephrons there are in a dog, renal dysplasia can be more severe in some dogs than others. This disease is considered to be hereditary in dogs so it is usually diagnosed in young puppies. Other pets, such as cats, rarely have renal dysplasia.

Signs of Renal Dysplasia in Dogs

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Stunted growth

Renal dysplasia is most often diagnosed in young dogs. Since it is a hereditary condition, dogs with this disease are born with the abnormally formed nephrons inside their kidneys but the signs of renal dysplasia may not appear for months after birth.

With severe forms of renal dysplasia, puppies may start having excessive urination. This is referred to as polyuria. Polyuria is often mistaken as a simple housebreaking issue in puppies but once training measures fail and excessive drinking is also noted, it is eventually realized that an underlying medical issue is the real problem.

Puppies with renal dysplasia may also have stunted growth. Due to the abnormally formed nephrons in the kidneys, renal failure will occur in dogs that don't have properly functioning kidneys. This will also cause stunted growth in young dogs.

Dog Breeds Commonly Affected by Renal Dysplasia

Many different breeds of dogs can be affected by renal dysplasia but the following breeds are the most commonly diagnosed ones.

Diagnosing Renal Dysplasia in Dogs

If you are noticing symptoms of renal dysplasia in your puppy or young dog, your veterinarian will take that into account when they make their diagnosis. A full physical examination will be performed alongside a urinalysis and blood work. These tests will identify any changes to the kidneys and rule out other possible issues. After blood and urine tests, X-rays and ultrasounds may be performed in order to assess the size and shape of the kidneys. Finally, a surgical biopsy of the kidney may be recommended to confirm a diagnosis of renal dysplasia.

Forms of Renal Dysplasia in Dogs

Renal dysplasia can present as severe, moderate, or mild. The severe form presents in very young puppies and renal failure occurs very quickly. These puppies don't often survive past six months of age and may not even make it that long. The moderate form of renal dysplasia may not be as quickly diagnosed as these puppies are usually the ones exhibiting excessive thirst and urination. Puppies with the moderate form of renal dysplasia may survive to be one or two years old.

The least commonly seen form of renal dysplasia is the mild form and these dogs may live a fairly normal life. Excessive urination may occur alongside eventual kidney problems as they age but a longer lifespan is typically expected of them.

Treatment of Renal Dysplasia in Dogs

While there is no cure for renal dysplasia, symptomatic treatment may be recommended by your veterinarian depending on the severity of the disease. The severe form of renal dysplasia may not benefit from treatment and euthanasia may be elected due to a poor quality of life. The moderate form may benefit from fluid therapy, medications, renal support supplements, special diets, and other treatment options, though. If your puppy has a mild form of renal dysplasia, life long renal support supplements, special diets, and regular monitoring of kidney health through blood work, urinalysis, and other tests are most likely going to be recommended once renal dysplasia is diagnosed.

How to Prevent Renal Dysplasia in Dogs

Since renal dysplasia is a hereditary disease, selective breeding is the only way to help prevent renal dysplasia from occurring in dogs.