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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Kidney Disease




Condition Overview

Congenital kidney problems are kidney problems that are present at birth. The actual signs of kidney failure may not be immediately apparent, but the process leading to the kidney problem is present - perhaps just a genetic defect or damaged tissue.


Symptoms vary by condition.


Some congenital problems are hereditary, with others are a result of trauma in utero or at whelping, or the effects of drugs or chemicals the dam was exposed to while the pups were in utero.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

Dogs with this disease have multiple cysts on one or both kidneys. Depending on the degree of normal tissue versus cystic tissue, a dog may show minimal signs or be in renal failure (kidney failure).

Carin Terriers and Beagles seem to have a familial predisposition to this problem. Bull Terriers have an autosomal dominant version of polycystic kidney disease.

Renal Dysplasia

Renal dysplasia is a problem with the development of the tissues of the kidney itself. Depending on what tissues are malformed, kidney failure of various types and severity will result. Urine may not be concentrated or certain nutrients may not be retained.

Dogs start to show increased urination and drinking at 6 - 24 months of age. If the problem is unilateral, the dog may appear normal throughout her life, as long as the remaining kidney stays healthy.

Most dogs inherit this condition as an autosomal recessive gene, so both parents could be carriers and both sexes can be affected. In Samoyeds, it is an X-linked trait, which means many more males show clinical signs than females.

Renal dysplasia has been identified in more than 20 breeds including Alaskan Malamutes, Cocker Spaniels, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, Miniature schnauzers, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, Standard Poodles, Keeshonds, and Norwegian Elkhounds.

Protein-losing Nephropathy

In dogs with this disease, the filtering mechanism of the kidneys is defective and the body loses protein. One of the first signs is increased urination and drinking.

There appears to be an immune-mediated component to this illness. Breeds with a predisposition include the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Bernese Mountain Dog, Labrador Retriever, and Golden Retriever.


In dogs with amyloidosis, the protein amyloid is deposited in the kidney, interfering with normal functions by blocking the normal filter mechanisms, leading to dilute urine and/or protein loss in the urine. This disease can be seen in any breed, but is a particular problem for many Chinese Shar-Pei dogs. In this breed, the problem tends to begin before 5 years of age with swollen joints and high fevers that come and go in a cyclic pattern.

Fanconi Syndrome

Fanconi syndrome is an impairment in the function of the kidney that causes certain compounds which should be absorbed into the bloodstream by the kidneys to be excreted in the urine instead. Compounds that may be lost in the urine include glucose, amino acids, uric acid, and phosphate. Loss of these compounds can cause problems such as failure to grow and bone abnormalities. When too much bicarbonate is excreted in the urine, excess acid can build up in the blood.

The disease can be seen in any breed of dog, but Basenjis have a breed predisposition. Many dogs first show signs at 4 - 8 years of age. With the dramatic nutrient loss, these dogs will rapidly lose condition and die unless they are treated.


Polycystic Kidney Disease is often diagnosed by ultrasound.

A kidney biopsy is the only way to definitively diagnose Renal Dysplasia.

In protein-losing Nephropathy, excess protein in the urine may be picked up by a urinalysis.


Polycystic Kidney Disease has no specific medical treatment. Management is similar to kidney failure. A kidney transplant would be an option if both kidneys are severely affected.

Renal Dysplasia also follows the guidelines for kidney failure. A kidney transplant could be considered if severe kidney failure develops.

Protein-losing Nephropathy treatment is aimed at controlling kidney failure.

Amyloidosis: colchicine, a drug that reduces the inflammation caused by uric acid, may help as a treatment, along with supportive care for kidney failure.

With Fanconi Syndrome, regular supplements can help replace the lost nutrients. Bicarbonate is especially important due to the problems with the acid-base balance.


VetGen offers a genetic test for Renal dysplasia in Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, and Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers.


Please contact your veterinarian with questions regarding this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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