Q: All of a sudden, my 14-year-old dog is drinking a lot of water and losing weight. Aren't these signs of kidney failure? A: The symptoms you describe could indicate a number of problems, including kidney or liver disease, diabetes or hormone imbalance. You are correct that the first signs of kidney disease are often loss of appetite and increased water consumption. The animal also may act depressed, become dehydrated, have a bad odor to its breath and start vomiting or having diarrhea. These symptoms commonly appear when the kidneys lose about 75% of their ability to filter waste products.
Veterinarians treat kidney disease by giving fluids intravenously, which flushes out waste products and returns electrolyte levels to normal. To reduce strain on the kidneys during that time, the animal is fed a special diet. Vitamin supplements are important because so many nutrients are lost in the urine, and antibiotics or other medication also may be necessary to eliminate the initial cause of the kidney disease.