Kidney Parasites in Dogs

Kidney Parasites in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Kidney Parasites?

Internal parasites may be the cause of your pet’s ill health. Parasites can upset the important job the kidneys have which is removing waste by-products from the blood, and maintaining the fine balance of fluids and minerals that move through the body. Any condition that upsets and damages the natural balance of the kidneys is referred to as kidney or renal disease. While kidney disease is quite common in dogs, catching it in its early stages and providing treatment may halt the disease progression, allowing your dog to live a long and happy life.

Kidney problems can affect your dog so it is important to know the impending symptoms (such as increased thirst and bad breath) and act immediately, which may save your pet’s life.

Symptoms of Kidney Parasites in Dogs

  • Increased thirst (a noticeable difference in the amount of water your dog drinks is a sign as the constant craving for water is one of the most noticeable signs of kidney failure)
  • Frequent urination often uncontrollable, combined with the need to urinate during the night 
  • Decreased appetite
  • Bad breath
  • Weight loss 
  • Your dog may be lethargic and sleeping more often 
  • Dull coat appearance
  • Depressed attitude 
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Urinary tract infection 
  • Blood in the urine 


  • Your veterinarian may describe your dog’s condition as either acute kidney disease or chronic kidney disease 
  • Acute kidney disease happens suddenly rather than over time and can be caused by infection, dehydration, blood loss and obstructed urination 
  • Chronic kidney disease accumulates over time often from the same factors as above as well as hereditary and nutritional influences
  • This condition is progressive and once this has occurred it cannot be reversed
  • Often the disease symptoms are not noticed until 75% of the functions the kidney performs have been damaged.

Causes of Kidney Parasites in Dogs

Kidney disease can be caused by several different agents other than parasitic means, and being aware of these factors will help to keep your dog healthy if you take prompt action on any of these causes.

  • Bacterial infections called bacterial cystitis affecting the bladder and as a result, impacting upon the kidneys 
  • Kidney infections or pyelonephritis, which is a bacterial infection that has reached the kidneys 
  • Infectious diseases such as leptospirosis can cause your dog’s kidneys to become inflamed through drinking contaminated water or bacteria entering through skin damages (cuts)
  • Renal or kidney parasites are worms that are ingested and find their way to the kidney or other parts of the urinary system 
  • Internal parasites cause damage and create kidney infection because of their actions 
  • Renal parasites invade the kidneys and take up residence beginning the start of disease 
  • The most common species of worm is the Dioctophyme renale (often known as the giant kidney worm as they can grow up to 40 inches in length)
  • These worms colonise your dog’s kidneys and are acquired through eating fish or frogs which have ingested the eggs of the parasite

Diagnosis of Kidney Parasites in Dogs

Once your take your dog to the veterinary clinic, your specialist will do a physical examination to check your dog’s overall health. Your dog may have abdominal pain and react when palpated in that area. The veterinarian will want to know a bit about your dog’s history, such as has your pet had a recurrent urinary tract infection, and whether you have noticed blood in the urine. Diagnosis can often be made by finding the ova (parasitic eggs) in urine sediment. If the condition is caused by Dioctophyme renale worms the adult worm may be found upon surgical exploration. Other tests that may be done include a complete blood count (CBC) which is one of the easiest ways to diagnose kidney disease.

A urinalysis is another straightforward way to determine the cause of the disease. Just to be certain, your veterinarian may do a biochemical profile, bacterial urine culture or a radiograph (X-ray) to solidify his diagnosis and to determine the extent of the kidney damage, and to decide on the right treatment. In the case of the kidneys, it is vital to try and notice any early warning signals as early treatment can save your pet’s life. The longer the disease progresses, the more irreversible damage is done.

Treatment of Kidney Parasites in Dogs

The treatment for kidney parasites depends on the type of parasite and the health/condition of your dog. Some worm parasites, such as Capillaria plica, that affect the kidneys are usually less of a concern as they only last 3 to 4 months, and a good dewormer will usually resolve this problem. Dioctophyme renale may be more complicated. These worms cause widespread destruction and damage to the tissue of the kidney. If a kidney has been severely damaged because of these worms, removal of the affected kidney may be the only option.

Where the kidneys have both been affected, (by D. renale) then removal of the worm through surgical means may be the only option. Your dog can live a normal life if one kidney is removed and the other is still healthy. Prevention is the best course of action and this entails not allowing your dog to catch and eat raw creatures such as frogs, earthworms and some fish that may be carrying the parasites. Failure to prevent or treat your dog if he has developed kidney parasites can lead to kidney failure and your pet’s demise.

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Recovery of Kidney Parasites in Dogs

Home care once your dog’s treatment has been administered requires you as the owner to ensure the treatment is continued and all medication is given right to the end of the course. A follow up visit or two to the veterinary clinic will be required to monitor the progress of the treatment. Total control over the infestation can take some time to achieve, as the ova or eggs can survive for years in the environment. Pristine sanitation will help prevent infection while limiting your dog exposure to earthworms, frogs, and undercooked fish will help. Providing plenty of clean water, a comfortable bed, as well as peace and quiet if your dog is not feeling well will all aid recovery.

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