Your once perfectly house-trained dog has started to have accidents in the house and you're filling that huge water bowl 2 and 3 times a day. All new behaviors, all indicators that something may be wrong. So what now? Schedule a vet visit and be prepared to bring some of your dog's urine with you if you can catch a voided sample from her. In the meantime, step up your walks and keep filling that water bowl.
Your vet will check your dog's urine, take an x-ray of her bladder and run some blood work. A urinalysis will help determine if she's dealing with a urinary tract infection or if your dog is producing painful urinary crystals (much like our kidney stones). If there are stones in the bladder, these may be seen via x-ray. Finally, a blood panel will check your dog's kidney function. Urinary tract infections can be treated with antibiotics, stones can be dissolved or removed, depending on their size and , but kidney function can be more tricky.
What exactly do kidneys do, you ask? These powerful organs are tasked with maintaining hydration, and proper electrolyte and pH balance. They also remove toxins from the blood, and aid in the production of red blood cells. While they're powerful, and issued in pairs, the bad news is, kidney tissue does not regenerate.
If your dog's blood panel shows decreased kidney function - meaning the kidneys aren't able to filter out chemical waste from her blood and tissues, called uremia - she needs immediate treatment. Once kidney function is decreased to the extent that it can be recognized via a blood panel, your dog's lost 75% of her working kidney tissue. There are other late stage symptoms - lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, unusual ammonia-smelling breath and anemia.
It's not all bad news. You can help your healthy dog now by always keeping that water bowl full with fresh, clean water. Feed a good diet and be vigilant of any change in behavior. If you notice a change, you're probably right. Don't wait and ignore changes that are out of the ordinary. Talk to your trusted vet and catch any issues early. Like every other health complication, the earlier kidney disease is caught, the earlier it can be dealt with.