Kidney Failure in Horses

March 5, 2012 (published)

Today on Texas Vet News I am going to talk about kidney or renal failure in horses. Fortunately renal failure in horses is fairly uncommon but acute renal failure can develop as a complication of another disease that causes a decrease in circulation, like severe colic. Renal disease can also occur after exposure to antibiotics like tetracycline when given to young foals for contracted tendons. Also, horses that tie up severely release a pigment in the blood that can lead to renal disease and this is why fluid therapy is important in severe cases. One of the most common causes of acute renal disease is antibiotics like gentamycin, especially in horses that are dehydrated or toxic. These antibiotics accumulate in the kidney and cause death of kidney cells, which usually occurs after several doses of medication.

Another common renal toxicity is non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the most common of which are bute and banamine. These drugs decrease blood flow to the kidney, which again can be a problem if the horse is dehydrated or toxic. Because of this potential problem, it is critical to have a vet examine a horse before you start giving bute, banamine, or certain antibiotics because if the horse is dehydrated or toxic, these drugs can destroy their kidneys. Horses with acute renal failure are usually depressed, not eating and can have many other signs. Treatment must be aggressive and centers around intravenous fluid therapy to correct the dehydration and increase blood flow to the kidneys and correct the electrolyte deficits. Remember it is potentially dangerous to your horse's kidneys to give certain antibiotics and drugs like bute or banamine without a vet exam.

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