How to Check for Kidney Disease & Diabetes in Dogs

Abnormal results of your dog's laboratory tests tell the final answer.
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Diabetes and kidney disease rank among common conditions afflicting senior dogs. Because most of the noticeable symptoms are nearly identical, it is difficult for you to determine which disease your beloved companion is suffering from. The signs can also appear so gradually that the condition may set in for weeks before you realize that something is off. The only way to diagnose your pet’s symptoms is to bring him to the veterinarian for more definitive clues.

Symptoms You See

Diabetes and kidney disease, as well as Cushing’s disease, present with increased water intake and urinary output. You may realize that you are refilling the water bowl more often to accommodate your thirsty canine, and he is making more frequent requests to go outside to relieve himself. Diabetes and kidney disease also share the sign of noticeable weight loss. If your dog is afflicted with either diabetes or kidney disease, you may observe vomiting and a decrease in his energy level. One of the differences between the two conditions is that a diabetic patient has a voracious appetite, whereas a patient suffering from kidney disease demonstrates a sharp decrease in appetite. Any of these symptoms in your dog warrants immediate investigation by your veterinarian.

Symptoms Your Veterinarian Sees

Since you share your life and home with your furry friend, your veterinarian poses a few questions to gain a clear picture of the symptoms. He also conducts a thorough physical examination that includes palpating the kidneys, checking for dehydration and inspecting your dog’s mouth for further clues that can differentiate the two diseases. Even with training and experience, the only way he can provide a definitive diagnosis is by running some laboratory tests. These tests likely include a complete blood count, a chemistry profile and a urinalysis. If he suspects diabetes as the problem, he may order an additional blood test called the fructosamine test, which is able to reveal your dog’s glucose level over the past few weeks.

Laboratory Tests

When the results of the tests come back, your veterinarian focuses on a handful of specific values. Kidney disease shows elevations in blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels. Another telltale value is a low specific gravity in the urine. Advanced kidney disease may also reveal elevated phosphorus and abnormal potassium levels in the blood. All of these abnormal findings indicate that the worn kidneys are unable to efficiently carry out their function of filtering wastes and toxins from your pet’s bloodstream. The confirming abnormal value in a diabetic patient is a high glucose level in the blood. This serves as evidence that the pancreas is unable to secrete enough insulin to regulate the body’s glucose levels. The urinalysis may show elevated glucose and ketone levels.

Different Treatments, Same Diligence

Whether your faithful friend is diagnosed with diabetes or kidney disease, he is going to require dedicated care from you to preserve his quality of life. Kidney disease is degenerative, requiring a dietary switch to low protein and low phosphorus prescription diets. As the disease progresses, he will require fluid therapy to help him maintain hydration. Diabetic care includes switching to a low-carbohydrate and high-fiber diet, insulin administration and diligent monitoring at home. Both scenarios require frequent veterinary monitoring as well, repeating blood tests often to make sure that your dog’s disease is effectively managed. All senior pets should see their veterinarian twice a year for routine laboratory tests to detect these and other illnesses early.