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High Creatinine in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. October 24, 2018
High Creatinine in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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When our dogs get older, it is not uncommon for their bodies to not function as well as before. This is an unfortunate, yet natural facet of aging. However, since bodily functions are affected by the condition of the vital organs, it is not always possible to determine a dog's health from physical examinations. On the contrary, many pathologies and health problems a dog might face are asymptomatic. It is not until the proper tests are run that a diagnosis can be achieved. Testing a dog's creatinine levels is one such method.

If your dog has a blood test or urine test, the results may show that the creatinine level is high. With high creatinine in dogs, it is important to find out what is the cause. This can be done by looking at the related symptoms of abnormal levels. In doing so, you can work out the best course of treatment to lower them again. Let AnimalWised explain more.

You may also be interested in: High Creatinine Levels in Cats


  1. Creatinine and kidney function
  2. Renal failure in dogs
  3. Symptoms of high creatinine levels in dogs
  4. Treating kidney failure
  5. Caring for a dog with kidney disease

Creatinine and kidney function

Creatinine is a waste product which is created by the breakdown of creatine phosphate (also known as phosphocreatine) from muscle tissue. It is not particularly useful in itself and, as a waste product, it is processed by the kidneys and excreted via urine. However, it can be useful in diagnosing kidney function. If the kidneys are functioning properly, then there should be a normal level of creatinine in both the urine and blood. However, if the levels are too high, it implies the kidneys are unable to process the creatinine adequately. If the kidneys are not functioning, it means there is kidney failure.

The causes of kidney failure, and therefore high creatinine levels in dogs, can be various. We mentioned in the introduction that age is an important factor in vital organ functionality, but a disease, disorder, infection or even trauma can lead to renal failure. Unfortunately, even if the renal system is being deteriorated, it can still function well for a long time. This means damage to your dog may be occurring, even if there are no obvious physical symptoms or behavioral changes. Taking your dog to the vet for at least a regular annual checkup is imperative. If the dog is older than 7 years of age, they are considered a ‘senior’ and may even need more regular visits.

Recognizing an elevated creatinine level in your dog is a good way of testing glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of the kidney. This is the rate at which the kidney is able to process waste products via bloodflow. Serum is part of the blood and is measured for creatinine levels in dogs. It is used as an effective test for kidney function in dogs as whatever the cause of renal failure, creatinine levels will be raised[1].

However, just because a dog has elevated creatinine levels, does not necessarily mean there is kidney failure. There are other factors which may affect the accuracy of test results. For this reason, the tests for GFR need to also assess other factors such as the level of urea and phosphorous. The reason why creatinine levels are measured is that they use a relatively simple methodology and equipment usage. For a more accurate reading, a few samples may be taken over a period of 10 hours or so[2]. There have also been recent developments to suggest that a canine saliva test will also be able to determine inappropriate levels of urea and creatinine[3].

High Creatinine in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Creatinine and kidney function

Renal failure in dogs

If a dog has high creatinine in their blood serum, urine or even saliva test results, it is because the kidneys are not functioning properly. This means the cause of elevated creatinine levels in dogs is also the cause of kidney damage. These causes may include:

  • Trauma: if your dog is in an accident or if someone has purposefully abused them, it is possible their kidneys have received a trauma injury. This can cause internal bleeding, inflammation or other kidney damage which can result in renal failure.
  • Poisoning: if a dog ingests something they shouldn't, it can cause physical damage if it is a choking hazard. However, if they eat something poisonous, it means the toxins cannot be processed and they can build up in the liver and kidneys. If the toxins are not flushed out in time, more damage will occur and can result in kidney failure.
  • Heart disease: as the kidneys rely on blood flow to adequately process substances, heart disease can indirectly lead to improper kidney function.
  • Infection: there are many different types of infection which can lead to the kidneys not functioning properly. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection which can lead to the shut down of organs. It is also transferable to humans which is why it is included in many vaccination schedules. Other bacterial or viral infections can also lead to kidney failure, but more aggressive types such as parvovirus will show other symptoms first.
  • Parasitic infestation: neosporosis is a parasite which directly damages the kidneys. The tissue is killed and the kidneys can permanently lose function. Age is also a correlated factor in the likelihood of developing this type of infestation[4].
  • Cancer: cancer can metastasize and reach the kidneys resulting in canine renal failure.
  • Blockages: blockages in the glomerular capillaries or other parts of the kidney can lead to the kidneys losing function. Kidney stones can also affect the kidney's ability to process chemicals properly.

Symptoms of high creatinine levels in dogs

As high creatinine levels is one of the factors vets use to determine the severity of kidney disease, we need to look at the symptoms of renal failure if we haven't yet had a test. There are four main stages of renal failure in dogs, so these symptoms will become more acute as the damage increases:

  • Thinning or hair loss
  • General poorly appearance
  • Increased water intake
  • Changes in urination, either urinating too much or too little
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Breath smelling of ammonia
  • As the disease progresses, complications such as adema or a comatose state may occur
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of apetite
  • Blood in urine

Even if you see some of these symptoms early on, you should check with your vet. This is because they may show early stages of kidney failure and the earlier the treatment the better the prognosis.

High Creatinine in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Symptoms of high creatinine levels in dogs

Treating kidney failure

An elevated creatinine level likely implies an emergency for your dog. In acute cases, the dog will be in danger of fatality. However, since creatinine levels are rarely measured at home, it is likely you are already in the presence of a veterinarian. If so, they will be able to explain what measures they will be able to take in treating the kidney problem and trying to lower creatinine levels. These may include:

  • Fluid therapy: as the dog will have lost a lot of its water retention, it will become dehydrated and will need their fluids replaced.
  • Treating the cause: if the dog is suffering from one of the above causes of high creatinine levels, then the treatment of this cause will help lower levels. For example, if the kidney has ruptured, surgical intervention may be required.
  • Drugs: there are no drugs which can directly lower creatinine levels in the blood. However, there are drugs which can be used to treat the concurrent symptoms while the cause is being reduced.

These measures are used more as a way to stop the progress of kidney disease and to ensure as much kidney function can be saved. In more acute cases, the dog may recover, but there may have been acute kidney damage. If this is the case, then the dog will be left with chronic kidney disease.

Caring for a dog with kidney disease

Dogs with chronic kidney disease will have elevated creatinine levels, but they shouldn't be as high when the kidney disease was acute. Treatment of this condition is more to do with managing the levels of creatinine as well as phosphorous and urea. Keeping these at the lowest levels possible will help the kidneys to carry out their other functions, but it is important to know they will never return to their previous functionality.

The veterinarian will diagnose the problem through a series of tests. This will include the aforementioned blood test and urinalysis, but they may wish to carry out additional tests such as radiography or an ultrasound. Finding out their other vital signs such as blood pressure levels will help to know the extent of the problem. If the kidney disease has progressed far enough, pharmacological treatment may be required to keep their kidney function going.

Additionally, dogs will likely need to be put on to a special feed formulated for dogs with kidney problems. Their general well-being needs to be taken care of, so they will need to stay well-hydrated and we need to be extra sensitive to possible changes in well-being or if symptoms of acute renal failure reappear.

High Creatinine in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment - Caring for a dog with kidney disease

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to High Creatinine in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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I have a 7 year old Gsd. 2 weeks back he had castration surgery at that time his creatinine was 0.8. Now after surgery from last 3-4 days he was not eating properly. Today, I took him for test again and his creatnine level is increased to 10.4. I am so worried right now. Is this usual post operation hike in creatinine level? what should I do? is it treatable
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Lakshay,

Castration can have a bearing on creatinine levels of the dog, but it is up to the veterinarian to determine whether they will maintain that way or cause any specific issue in your dog.
catherine dickie
i have a dog on renal support food and was told to only give him distilled water. I have a well and there is higher level of iron in it. is it ok to give him the tap water or do I still have to buy distilled water for him.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Catherine,

If your veterinarian has advised you to only give them distilled water, there will be good reason for it. Especially with kidney problems, you can't be too careful. We recommend following their advice and asking them at the next checkup if you have any concerns.
You have to be really careful with things like kidney function in dogs. We have a Black Lab who was tested at her yearly vet checkup. We have good insurance and always make sure we can get whatever tests are possible and we're so glad we did. She had slightly elevated creatinine levels, so we put her on a special diet advised by the vet (I know we ar elucky to have such a good one) and she stabilized. We would be so upset if her kidneys had gotten worse, we have read how difficult it can be for dogs!
Jo Ann Cooper
Our dog started coughing like she was trying to get a hair ball up.
I took to local Vet and she said was in congestive heart failure and started her on 3 medications. Then after they got her blood work back they say her creatine level is very elevated liver tests.
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High Creatinine in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment