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It has been one month since my sweet Plum has been gone. In some ways it seems like just yesterday and in other ways it feels like forever.
When Plum first came to me in June 2009, she was riddled with health problems. And for the entire time I had her, it seemed we were at the vet's office with some new ailment and I don't exaggerate a bit when I say that I spent the whole year and 7 months trying so hard to fix all of her medical problems.
Of everything she had going on, I was sure it would be something else that did her in: her terrible allergies, her chronic infections, her reproductive issues, her heart condition, her colitis, etc. etc.
Never did I imagine with all those trips to the vet, with all the bloodwork and XRAYS and surgeries, all the office visits and urine checks and stool samples that something as big as kidney failure could sneak by undetected and destroy her within 4 months of her initial diagnosis.
That's the thing about kidney failure in dogs. In most cases (as was the case with Plum) there are virtually no symptoms of the disease until it has progressed to the point where the kidneys have been damaged beyond repair, usually to where they have lost 75% of their functionality.
If anything good can come out of this I would like it to be a warning to other dog owners, of all breeds, of all ages to have your dog checked for kidney disease and maybe save a life or prolong a life. Because it wasn't something I was aware of or I would have been more proactive.
All dog owners should know that routine blood work and checkups at the vet won't detect kidney disease. Even when more advanced blood work and testing is done -like the kind they do before a dog undergoes surgery to check their organs, won't necessarily pick up on it. Neither will the senior wellness checks that they bag you $200 a year for.
To verify if your dog might have a problem, request a full kidney panel from your vet including Creatinine, BUN, Calcium and phosphorus ratios - not just a normal CBC blood workup.
In addition to the bloodwork you should have your dog's urine checked for - not just checked for infections or bacteria, make sure they check the protein and urine specific gravities and make sure they look at all the values of blood and urine together. Normally they won't do this unless the dog is showing signs of advanced kidney disease, when it's too late.
It would also be a good idea to get your dog's blood pressure checked - elevated BP can be a warning sign of kidney trouble brewing.
I know that for me personally, for any dogs I own in the future I will have the test done regularly so I can be more proactive next time. The disease is controllable by diet and medication if it is caught earlier enough. And I think I would have the tests run on my dogs at any age, not just seniors.
A friend of mine recently lost her 2 year old Australian shepherd to kidney failure which it got as result of contracting Lyme Disease.
Certain medications like prednisone can also cause permanent kidney damage to dogs as well, even if they are only the medication for a week or two.
In Plum's case, by the time it was detected she had lost over 80% of her kidney function, was unresponsive to medications, diet changes, and fluid therapy - and she was gone exactly 4 months from the day she was diagnosed. I hear similar timeframes from many other people who had lost dogs to CRF.
It hurts to know I could have had even an extra month or two with her had it been detected earlier, that additional time would have meant the world to me. I am sure others who have lost dogs to this disease feel the same way.
For more information on dogs with kidney disease here is an excellent resource site: http://www.dogaware.com/health/kidney.html