Renal dysplasia is a disease which results in the improper formation of a dog's kidneys. Because they are improperly formed, the kidneys cannot then carry out their essential functions of eliminating waste from the blood stream, regulating the body's level of calcium, or aiding in the metabolism of phosphorous. Ultimately, kidneys suffering from renal dysplasia will result in outright renal failure as more and more of their functions are compromised and cease to be carried out satisfactorily.
All breeds are subject to renal dysplasia but there are several for which the risk of carrying the disease is higher than average. These include Samoyed, Malamutes, and Spitz breeds in general, as well as Doberman Pinschers, Terriers, and toy breeds such as the Poodle.
Renal dysplasia first manifests itself with certain clinical signs that you can spot, should you be aware of them. The foremost of these symptoms is an increased thirst and need for urination (polyuria). Though the dog is expelling more urine than normal, this urine does not carry any toxins out of the body with it and so it must not be mistaken for the result of a properly functioning kidney. Lethargy and loss of appetite are also clear indicators.
Your veterinarian will be able to make a much more accurate diagnosis and rule out other possibilities. He or she will likely take several urine samples and perform ultrasounds on the kidneys to look for visible abnormalities. A high percentage of acid in the urine is a clear sign of impending renal failure. In addition, the dog's potassium levels will likely be very low, while the phosphorous is elevated as the kidneys are no longer able to properly metabolize it. An increase in red blood cells that leads to anemia is also a very likely consequence.
There is no real treatment for renal dysplasia and the above symptoms are usually just treated independently from the main disease in order to make the dog as comfortable as possible. Medication can be prescribed and certain changes can be made to the dog's diet in order to reduce the level of acid in the urine, and dehydration can be relieved by means of intravenous nutrition supplements. Medications to control vomiting and high blood pressure as well as iron supplements to combat anemia round out the barrage of medications necessary to help a dog feel comfortable in spite of the failure of the kidneys to carry out their essential tasks.
It should be acknowledged, however, these support treatments are only helping the symptoms and prolonging the inevitable. There is no cure for renal dysplasia and after a matter of time, total renal failure is certain to happen.
Renal dysplasia is an inherited condition and dogs that suffer from it should not be used for breeding.