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Chronic Kidney Disease in Older German Shepherds

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

Chronic kidney disease, which is a kidney disease that occurs over time, is a common health issue in older German Shepherds. As our dogs age, their organs don't function as well as they used to. This can lead to a build-up of toxins in their system and, eventually, kidney failure. While it's not always possible to prevent kidney disease, there are things we can do to help our German Shepherds live longer, healthier lives.

In this #LifeWithOldDogs® post, we'll cover what you should know about chronic kidney disease in older German Shepherds.

Our beautiful boy, Champ, had chronic kidney disease, and eventually, we had to say goodbye.

What Chronic Causes Kidney Disease in Older German Shepherds?

The kidneys are a crucial part of the body's filtration system. They remove toxins and waste products from the body, making them essential for maintaining good health.

There are many possible causes for chronic kidney disease in older German Shepherds. Some of the most common include genetic factors, chronic inflammation, cancer, issues with protein, dental disease, and, simply put, the kidneys wearing out due to age.

There are several stages of chronic kidney disease, which are illustrated below.

Credit: International Renal Interest Society

What Are The Signs Of Chronic Kidney Disease in Older German Shepherds?

  • Drinking excessively or not enough

  • Weight loss

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea/vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Urinating in the house

  • Excessive urinating (or not urinating enough)

  • Bad breath (chemical smell)

  • Excessive sleeping (Lethargy)

  • Depression

  • Mouth sores

  • Pale gums

  • Poor coat appearance

  • Abnormal swelling

  • Visible pain and discomfort

  • Inability to walk properly

  • Seizures

Champ slept quite a bit toward the end of his batter with kidney disease.

How Is Chronic Kidney Disease Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of chronic kidney disease is by lab work which evaluates your older German Shepherd's blood and urine. The urine test is called a "urine analysis," which can help determine whether the kidneys are functioning correctly and provide evidence of other problems, such as infections or excessive protein loss through our pets' urethra (urethrae).

Treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease:

Treatment depends on your older German Shepherd's overall health, but the primary focus of treatment is to slow down the progression of the disease.

Some methods used to slow progression are:

  • Incorporate a therapeutic diet specific for Chronic Kidney disease (reduced amounts of sodium, protein & phosphorus, and more Omega 3 fatty acid)

  • Medication to treat symptoms

  • Nutritional supplements

  • Fluid therapy via an IV

  • Maintain appropriate electrolyte levels

  • Dialysis

Prevention of Chronic Kidney Disease in Older German Shepherds

While it is difficult to prevent, regular wellness exams with your trusted veterinarian will help increase the chances of detecting chronic kidney disease symptoms early so that treatment can begin quickly and prolong your older German Shepherd's life.

Prognosis For older German Shepherds With Chronic Kidney Disease

If your older German Shepherd shows kidney disease signs, a veterinarian must check them out as soon as possible for testing and treatment options. Early intervention is vital in giving your fur friend the best possible chance at a long and healthy life.

Kidney disease is a serious condition that can be fatal in older German Shepherds if left untreated.

Unfortunately, the kidneys, in general, are not able to regenerate function, so at this time, there is no cure.



  • Because your older German Shepherd with chronic kidney disease can't concentrate his urine effectively, ALWAYS have plenty of fresh water on hand for him.

  • Consider incorporating wet food such as canned (CKD appropriate) to sneak in more water (moisture) into the older German Shepherd.

  • Keep an eye out for excessive sodium in food and don't want your older German Shepherd's kidneys to work any harder than they already are.

  • What to look for in food:

A kidney support diet for dogs with CKD will contain the following key components on a dry matter basis:

Protein 14-20% Phosphorus 0.2 - 0.5% Sodium≤ 0.3% Omega-3 fatty acids 0.4 - 2.5%

(According to VCA Animal Hospital)

  • Increased levels of Omega 3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation and support kidney health.

  • Increase water-soluble vitamins that are lost through urinating, such as B vitamins

  • Incorporate vitamins such as C, E, beta-carotene, and lutein for their antioxidant properties, which help fight against cell damage and promote immunity health.


To see the complete IRIS guide for Chronic Kidney Disease in cats and dogs, click on the link:


***** Disclaimer: Throughout the "20 Most Common Health Issues in Senior German Shepherds" series, each blog post is expressed explicitly from our point of view and is not to be substituted for the professional medical expertise of your trusted veterinarian.


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