Q. My 11-year-old Labrador Retriever has been diagnosed with a high level of microalbuminuria (23). My vet says there is nothing I can do, and my Lab will die within months. I don’t buy this. He is active, runs, fetches and is very playful. He has lost weight and has had two bouts of gastritis, but he looks great.
A. It would be somewhat premature to predict that your dog will only survive several months because he has microalbuminuria.
Microalbuminuria refers to a test that detects small amounts of protein in the urine. This is only considered a screening test that can sometimes detect early signs of kidney dysfunction. A full blood panel and urinalysis must be done to determine how well your dog’s kidneys are actually functioning.
A positive result can sometimes result in unnecessary anxiety and worrying, followed by a wild goose chase to find an underlying problem. However, if your Lab is showing early signs of kidney failure, this test is very sensitive in detecting it.
Weight loss can be caused by the loss of protein through the kidneys, but usually dogs with kidney failure severe enough to cause weight loss are quite sick. It sounds like your dog is feeling pretty good overall.
Vomiting and loss of appetite can be signs of serious kidney failure, since these signs can be caused by the presence of toxins in the bloodstream that normally are cleared by the kidneys.
There are definitely steps you can take, under the guidance of your veterinarian, to help slow the progression of kidney disease. These can include a low protein diet, vitamin D supplementation, antioxidants, and injections of erythropoietin to help maintain normal levels of red blood cells.
Ask your veterinarian for a more complete picture of how well your dog’s kidneys are functioning, and take steps to help improve his kidney health.
I hope it turns out that your dog’s kidneys are functioning better than your veterinarian suspects.