Equine Health: How to Treat Kidney Infections in Horses

Written by sandra penn
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Equine Health: How to Treat Kidney Infections in Horses
Lethargy, depression, and a dull coat may be signs that your horse's kidneys are not functioning properly. (very tired old horse image by Ivonne Wierink from Fotolia.com)

Kidney infections in horses are very rare. In fact, according to EquiSearch, for a horse "the kidneys are among the most reliable of all his body's regulatory systems." The percentage of horses affected by kidney disease is only a small fraction of one per cent. Unfortunately, because the disease is so rare and symptoms often mirror other, more common illnesses, a diagnosis is often made when the disease is already in an advanced stage. Recovery from a kidney infection depends largely on the amount of time the kidneys have been infected.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging


  1. 1

    Check for symptoms of a kidney infection. If your horse's kidneys are damaged, you will likely notice abnormal urination. This may mean too much urine, as it passes too quickly through his system, or urine with a particularly strong smell due to the high concentration of waste products that the kidneys are unable to purge. Other symptoms include unusual weight loss, lethargy, depression, low appetite, gum irritation, or a dull coat.

  2. 2

    Call your veterinarian. Because many symptoms of a kidney infection, such as lethargy or weight loss, can have many different and more common causes than kidney disease, you should consult your regular vet if you suspect kidney disease to be the culprit. Your vet will take a blood sample and a urine sample to confirm the diagnosis.

  3. 3

    Assess and treat the cause of the infection. There are many reasons that the kidneys may have been compromised, including colic, dehydration, blood loss, or heatstroke.

  4. 4

    Replenish fluids. Make sure your horse has a ready supply of water, and add electrolytes to his diet. A salt block can also help encourage him to drink more water. In severe cases, your vet may administer intravenous fluids.

  5. 5

    Modify your horse's diet to reduce stress on the kidneys. His feed should be easy to digest and low in starch. EquiSearch recommends bran, beet pulp, or corn, and says to avoid course hays, which can stress your horse's digestive system.

  6. 6

    Try alternative therapies. Veterinarian Dr. Joyce Harman recommends Chinese therapies like acupuncture and herbal remedies that focus on the kidneys. These therapies are specific to each individual horse, so you'll need to find an alternative health care professional in your area who can determine what will work best for your horse.

Tips and warnings

  • Because kidney infections are often preceded by another problem, such as colic or dehydration, be on the lookout for any abnormal behaviour or difference in eating habits to catch problems early.

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