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Kidney Disease and Management of Chronic Kidney Failure

Your veterinarian should conduct a quick blood test and urinalysis to screen for signs that kidney disease is developing.  Early detection gives you the opportunity to intervene to better improve life span and, importantly, improved quality of life.  Studies have shown that, with certain medications, life span can be prolonged by nearly two years on average, which translates in to an increased life span of 20%! 

This testing is available while you wait at Alpine Animal Clinic in Helena, and takes about 30 minutes.  Let's give you some information about what we're looking for.  Below are listed some important indicators of kidney health, severity of disease, and chronicity, meaning, is kidney disease long-standing or fairly new to this patient.  These are all important indicators of what you can hope to achieve with medications, treatment and prognosis.  This can help families decide how to best move forward and make decisions.

Important lab values include:

  • Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)

  • Creatinine (Creat)

  • Albumin (Alb)

  • Total Protein (TP)

  • Calcium (Ca)

  • Phosphorus (Phos)

  • Sodium (Na)

  • Potassium (K)

  • Chloride (Cl)

  • Red Blood Cells (RBCs)

  • Urine Specific Gravity

On-site labratory at Helena's Alpine Animal Clinic.

Check out this kidney patient's SubCu port!  More photos below...

A happy, healthy cat needs high-quality care from your trusted Alpine veterinarian.

In years past, kidney failure lead to debilitating illness and, fairly quickly, death for many veterinary patients. Fortunately, advances in modern medicine and treatments have greatly increased quality of life and survival times for most patients we now see.  

Early diagnosis is key to giving your cat or dog a high-quality life while managing kidney disease. Many cases are detected with thorough exam by your veterinarian, and we recommend at least once a year.  Also, regular screening by diagnostic testing allows earlier detection before symptoms develop.

What can we do to treat kidney disease?

Prescription foods to:

  • increase appetite

  • maintain weight

  • reduce nausea

  • improve longevity and quality of life

Medications to: 

  • improve kidney circulation and function

  • reduce stomach irritation and improve comfort

  • improve appetite and reduce weight loss

  • improve quality of life 

  • increase longevity and life span

  • improve anemia

Fluids to:

  • restore hydration

  • improve circulation, thereby cardiac (heart) output, kidney function, and body temperature

  • restore electrolyte balance

  • improve calorie maintenance

  • restore comfort and energy

As kidney disease progresses, prescription "IV fluids" can offer many more months of high-quality life to patients.  Fluids can be easily given at home under the skin subcutaneously ("SubCu") with a needle or, they can be given through a small Port (no needles!) that is easily inserted by your veterinarian at Alpine Animal Clinic.


For photos and a description of this easy, quick long-term solution to give prescription fluids, see below.

So, let's start with some of the symptoms that might indicate kidney disease:​​

  • increased drinking

  • increased urination

  • decreased appetite

  • vomiting

  • gradual weight loss

  • dull or dry hair coat

  • lack of energy or lethargy

  • decreased activity

  • prolonged sleeping

  • decreased interaction with family

High-quality ultrasound at Alpine Animal Clinic in Helena, MT.

When kidney abnormalities are suspected, your veterinarian may also recommend ultrasound of the kidneys to rule-out some forms of kidney disease such as: 


  • infection

  • stones

  • cysts

  • tumors

  • blockage

  • lymphoma

  • heart disease  


High-quality abdominal ultrasound is also available at your Helena Alpine Animal Clinic, and often can be completed as a drop-off appointment so you get answers and treatment for your loved one that same day.  


Ultrasound is painless, non-invasive, and is usually easily done without sedation or anesthesia.  It takes about 40 minutes to complete and is very cost-effective.

Check out this kidney patient's SubCu port below!

At Alpine Animal Clinic, we can quickly and easily insert a semi-permanent Port to administer prescription fluids under the skin-- by you, right at home! -- without needles or discomfort to your loved one.  It's comfortable for you and your pet, reduces time needed to administer fluids, and allows you to enjoy your pet without the need for needles or poking.

Here's how it's done:

Subcu port tiny incision for placement.

Next, the patient is draped with a sterile surgical drape and a tiny skin incision is made by the veterinarian.  The subcu port is carefully inserted in to the fatty tissues under the skin.

Surgical prep ensures a sterile area for port placement.

First, the patient is carefully prepped by shaving and performing a surgical scrub of a small patch behind the head just below the neck. 

The SubCu port quickly attaches to the fluid line for quick administration of fluids.

Finally, a port connector is placed that allows quick and easy connection/disconnection of the fluid line to the port.  Prescription Fluids are administered rapidly through the port giving life-saving hydration, nutrients and electrolytes.

Several sutures anchor the port.

Next, the surgeon carefully places nonabsorble sutures (stitches) at strategic locations around the port to anchor it in place.  These sutures will have to be replaced every 4 to 8 weeks, depending upon wear and activity by the patient.

SubCu port is complete and ready for long-term home care!

 The port connector is capped after fluid administration to protect it and keep it clean.  With each use, the port connector is cleaned thoroughly with rubbing alcohol or dilute bleach to ensure bacteria do not infect the implant.  


Pet shirts, jackets, wraps and bandanas are useful to protect the port (and look great!) and to minimize need for suture replacement.

Subcu fluid ports can add years of high-quality life to your loved one with kidney disease, keeping them out of the hospital and home with you where they belong.

Ask your Alpine Animal Clinic veterinarian about getting a port placed for your loved one with kidney disease and relax knowing you're giving excellent care easily and without discomfort.  The patient shown below benefited from her SubCu port for several years, greatly extending her life and quality of life.  Her bandana allowed for freedom to run and hike without wear and tear on her port.

This Corgi with kidney disease has had a SubCu port for several years, giving great quality of life.
Another view: her harness works great with her SubCu port!
This Corgi wears bandanas to protect her SubCu port.
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