Important Note: This article has been checked and verified by a professional veterinarian for accuracy. However, you should always seek advice from your own vet before making any decisions on euthanasia as there are never black and white answers for this decision.
The question of when to euthanize your dog with kidney failure or disease is a difficult and yet necessary conversation to have. I am not advocating you follow my views in this blog, as it should always be your own decision, based on the support of a professional such as your vet.
However, my family have had to put down a dog before, so I do feel like I am in a position to be able to at least give my view on when the right time to euthanize a dog with kidney failure is. Here’s my short answer first:
When to euthanize a dog with kidney failure? The right time to put a dog down with kidney disease is when you have exhausted all medical options. If your dog is no longer able to have a quality of life and enjoy the things he loves, it could be time to euthanize if nearing the prognosis of kidney failure.
When to put down a dog with kidney disease?
Acute and chronic kidney disease in dogs both involve the ultimate failure in the functioning of your dog’s kidneys. Whilst acute kidney failure comes on suddenly, chronic kidney failure is a more gradual disease.
Nobody wants to think about putting their dog to sleep, but with kidney disease (especially in its advanced stages of kidney failure) being known to cause significant harm and pain for your dog, you need to consider whether the best course of action is to let them pass away painlessly.
Whilst it is natural to feel emotional about this issue, it is vital that you don’t let your emotions cloud your judgement in making this decision.
I know first-hand that this is easier said than done, but it is easy to rationalise a decision when you’re feeling emotional even when you know deep down it’s the wrong thing to do.
First and foremost, you need to consider how kidney failure is impacting your dog’s quality of life.
Whilst every dog’s experience with kidney disease is different, if they are no longer responding to treatments and is only deteriorating further, then euthanasia should be considered.
Although it is natural to want to keep your companion with you as long as possible, is it really worthwhile if they’re visibly suffering?
In this article, I will explore the issue of canine kidney failure in more depth, as well as considering how and when euthanasia is the best course of action.
How long does a dog have to life with kidney disease?
The good news is that depending on how advanced the disease is upon diagnosis; some dogs are able to live months – or even years – with kidney disease.
However, it is equally as important to remember that whilst canine kidney disease prognosis is in some cases variable, it is still ultimately classed as a terminal as it leads to kidney failure. This means that you need to prepare for the possible outcome of needing to euthanise your dog.
The good news is that you won’t need to go through this alone. You will be able to trust your vet to give you consistent advice and guidance about the right course of action as and when the disease progresses.
As mentioned, a lot of vets point to euthanasia once they have exhausted all possible treatment options with your dog. Other signs that your dog might be ready to be put to sleep include the following:
- They’re getting worse rather than getting better or staying the same.
- They are no longer eating or drinking.
- They are no longer able to go to the toilet by themselves (they are incontinent).
- Your touch no longer soothes them/causes them pain.
- They spend a lot of their time asleep.
Please bear in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive. It’s usually a combination of things that will lead you/your vet to make a subjective assessment about whether your dog’s quality of life is now too poor.
Ultimately, as an owner who has naturally become well-attuned to your dog’s temperament and personality, only you can know if they are acting significantly different or behaving unusually.
The litmus test I have always told friends to do when considering the right time to put down their dog is to see how it reacts to something it loves. For example, if your dog loves to play with a ball, give him a ball.
If you get zero reactions, this could be another step in the direction of choosing euthanasia. After all, if your dog cannot enjoy life with kidney failure, why let him suffer any longer? But of course, this test should be coupled with a poor prognosis, because a dog who doesn’t want to play ball, but has a good chance of recovery at some point in the near future, should not be considered for euthanasia.
The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to use your instincts to judge how your dog is feeling, and make sure to bring up any changes in behaviour or concerns you have with your vet.
If you and your vet have discussed your options and come to the conclusion that there is nothing more that can be done for your dog, then you can consider the next step.
Although it is usual for euthanasia to be performed in a veterinary hospital, some vets offer to perform the procedure at your own home.
If your dog is anxious in nature, home might be the best place to put them to sleep. The familiar surroundings will help to keep them calm, and it might be something you’d personally prefer as well.
Once your dog has passed away, don’t be afraid to seek help for your grief, whether it be through counselling or support groups attended by people who have also lost their pets.
Feeling upset that your dog has passed away is completely natural and nothing to be ashamed of.
Handy Hint: There’s a common misconception that all dogs die with their eyes open. This isn’t actually true and will depend on how they are put to sleep.
Some dogs can live with kidney disease with up to 4 years
With the right treatment and early diagnosis, your dog can live up to four years with kidney disease.
To put it simply, there are four stages to canine kidney disease. Factors such as your dog’s systolic blood pressure, urine-to-protein ratio and creatinine are all taken into account by your vet when assessing what stage of kidney failure to diagnose your dog with.
How long can a dog live with stage 4 kidney disease?
If your dog is diagnosed with stage 1 or 2 kidney disease, life expectancy is years.
Unfortunately, on the other hand, if your dog is diagnosed with stage 3 to 4 kidney disease leading to kidney failure, you could be looking at weeks and months.
What are the symptoms of a dog dying from kidney failure?
Whilst there are a range of kidney failure symptoms to look out for in your dog, the symptoms of advanced kidney failure are, alongside with the signs mentioned above, the best indication of whether it is time to let your dog slip away.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of advanced (stage 4) kidney failure in dogs:
- Depression (he is no longer excited by things he previously enjoyed).
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite and weight loss.
- Increased urination.
- Increased thirst and dehydration.
- Emancipated appearance due to gradual loss of fat and muscle mass.
- Vomiting / nausea.
If your dog shows any of the above symptoms, it is important to consult a vet as soon as possible. In my view, these symptoms would be the right time to euthanize a dog with kidney failure.
It might turn out that there is no way that your vet is able to alleviate your dog from any of these symptoms. That may well be indicative that you and the vet have done all you can for your dog. They can then put them down to stop the pain. However there are many ways of medically managing kidney disease, so ensure you involve your veterinarian in the discussion about your dog’s future to determine what his prognosis is.
When you hold your dog’s life in your hands, it can be unnerving and incredibly distressing. It is, however, vital that you don’t shy away from this responsibility.
In the same way that your dog trusted you to take care of their welfare throughout their life, you are entrusted at the end of their life with making a decision based on what’s ultimately best for their wellbeing.
Whilst losing your dog to an illness like kidney disease is heart-breaking, you can always take comfort in the fact that you gave them the best, happiest and most fulfilling life possible.