Congenital Kidney Disease in Dogs

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Last updated on
4 min read

Key takeaways

Congenital kidney disease is a group of kidney diseases that develop before birth, during fetal growth.

  • Diseases that affect the kidneys interrupt normal filtration of wastes out of the blood, resulting in toxins building up in the body
  • Common congenital kidney diseases include renal agenesis, renal dysplasia, polycystic kidneys, renal amyloidosis, basement membrane disorder, and tubular dysfunction (Fanconi’s syndrome)
  • Symptoms include excessive thirst and urination, bad breath, lethargy, weight loss, stunted growth, poor hair quality, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Diagnostic tools include physical examination, urinalysis, diagnostic imaging, and renal biopsy
  • Treatment focuses on managing complications such as urinary tract infections and hypertension
  • Prognosis depends on specific diagnosis
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A closer look: Congenital Kidney Disease in Dogs

Congenital kidney diseases are very rare, and are either genetically inherited or occur as a random event during fetal development in the womb. Kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products out of the blood stream and excreting it in the form of urine. When normal kidney function is interrupted, it leads to build up of toxins in the body, which in turn leads to symptoms of kidney disease.

Dogs who drink or urinate excessively or show other symptoms of kidney disease require immediate veterinary attention. Variation and severity of symptoms depends on the specific diagnosis.

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Risk factors

Congenital kidney diseases that are inherited are more common in certain breeds of dogs. Many breeds have inherited kidney conditions or predispositions to certain congenital diseases. Researching the breed or discussion with breeders is the best method of determining whether congenital kidney problems are common in a specific breed.

Possible causes

The different types of congenital kidney diseases have distinct root causes:

Amyloidosis occurs when specific amyloid proteins are deposited throughout the body, causing organ and tissue dysfunction.

Polycystic kidney disease is the development of cysts in the kidney.

Renal dysplasia is the malformation of the urine-producing structures in the kidneys.

Renal agenesis is a condition in which there are one or two kidneys missing from the body at birth. In cases with one kidney, there are no symptoms unless another kidney disease is present.

Basement membrane disorders are caused by an abnormality in the collagen within the filtration components of the kidney.

Fanconi syndrome, also known as tubular dysfunction, is caused by a deficiency in the renal tubes.

Main symptoms

Congenital kidney disease can also lead to dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include prolonged skin tent, tacky gums, and sunken eyes.

Testing and diagnosis

Dogs with excessive thirst or urination, or with other signs of kidney disease, require veterinary attention for diagnosis of specific disease and appropriate treatment plan. Diagnostic tools include:

  • Physical examination
  • Urinalysis
  • Diagnostic imaging, including X-rays and ultrasound
  • Renal biopsy for examination of tissue structure and composition

Steps to Recovery

There are no curative treatments currently available for congenital kidney disease. Treatments aim to preserve renal function, reduce complications such as hypertension and urinary tract infections, and mitigate symptoms. Treatments include:

  • Rehydration through IV or oral fluids
  • Medications that reduce blood pressure
  • Antibiotics in cases with urinary tract infections
  • Special diets designed to reduce the kidneys’ workload
  • Dialysis to remove toxins from the bloodstream
  • Kidney transplant

Congenital kidney diseases are progressive. The life expectancy depends on the speed of the progression.


Genetically transmitted congenital defects like kidney disease can be prevented by sexual alteration of animals that are likely to pass on these genes (ie. elimination of ability to reproduce). Since many congenital defects develop randomly in the womb, there is no way to prevent these from occurring.

Is Congenital Kidney Disease in Dogs common?

Congenital kidney disease is very rare in dogs

Typical Treatment

There is no cure for congenital kidney disease. Treatments include:

  • Rehydration through IV or oral fluids
  • Medications to reduce blood pressure
  • Antibiotics in the case of urinary tract infections
  • Special nutrition
  • Dialysis to remove toxins from the bloodstream
  • Kidney transplant


Neil A. Hanchard, M.B.B.S., D.Phil. - Writing for National Human Genome Research Institute
Tammy Hunter, DVMMalcolm Weir, DVM, MSc, MPH; Robin Downing, DVM, DAAPM, DACVSMR, CVPP - Writing for VCA Animal Hospitals
Courtney Barnes, BSc, DVM; Catherine Barnette, DVM - Writing for VCA Animal Hospitals
George E. Lees - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Scott D. Fitzgerald, DVM, PhD, DACVP, DACPV - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Scott D. Fitzgerald, DVM, PhD, DACVP, DACPV - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Urs Giger, Diplomate ACVIM & ECVIM - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Hannah Hollinger - Writing for Wag!
ADRIENNE KRUZER - Writing for The Spruce Pets
No Author - Writing for Wag!
No Author - Writing for VetInfo
No Author - Writing for Pet Your Dog

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