Conditions or ailments that are the cause of a problem that you see - your observation.

Your vet may diagnose

Kidney Failure, Acute Renal Failure


Acute kidney failure can occur when a kidney-toxic substance in the bloodstream causes direct damage to the kidney. In horses, it is more commonly a consequence of underlying intestinal disease (conditions causing colic) that cause dehydration and poor blood flow to the kidneys. This lack of blood flow itself can result in kidney damage. Tying-up (exertional rhabdomyolysis) is also a common precursor to acute kidney failure.

NSAIDs like bute and flunixin (Banamine) when given in excess, can cause renal failure in the horse. Young foals are even more at risk for these toxicities.

Horses in renal failure are depressed and lack appetite. They either urinate very frequently or hardly at all. Inability to excrete toxins cause them to build up in the bloodstream and make the horse feel ill. This is what causes depression and loss of appetite.

Veterinarians usually diagnose renal failure with routine blood work. BUN and creatinine are two commonly used indicators, as are other enzymes and electrolytes. Urinalysis is very helpful in assessment and management.

Buildup of waste products, called uremia, causes a whole host of problems in other body systems. Treatment is an attempt to reestablish kidney function. The mainstay of treatment is intravenous fluid therapy. In some cases, diuretics are used to stimulate urination.

my vet's role



Other conditions or ailments that might also need to be ruled out by a vet.

Very Common
Less Common
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The prognosis for acute renal failure is fair, depending on many factors. No urination over 24 hours, despite treatment, is a grave indicator for prognosis. Lowered BUN and Creatinine values, along with urine production, at 24 hours are a good indicator of successful treatment and an improved prognosis.

Laminitis can be a consequence of this condition.

Permanent kidney damage from the incident may predispose horses to further kidney problems.

my role


I might observe

You might make these observations when a horse has this condition.

Very Common
Less Common
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Questions To Ask Your Vet:
  • Did an underlying disease contribute to this, or a specific toxin?
  • What effect does the buildup of toxins normally excreted by the kidney have on other body systems?

Avoid excessive use of NSAIDs (bute and Banamine) and any other drugs that may be kidney-toxic without strict veterinary guidance and monitoring.

Prompt veterinary diagnosis and treatment with laboratory work to ensure adequate hydration levels. Sometimes this can only be accomplished through referral to an equine hospital where large volumes of intravenous fluids can be delivered and monitored.

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP