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Know More About Multiple Cysts in Dogs

Multiple cysts or polycystic condition is the presence of more than one small pouch like structure in the kidneys. These cysts are thin walled tissues that contain fluid or semi-solid substances inside. When these are left untreated, they may grow bigger and occupy most part of the kidneys, leading to kidney failure. Multiple cysts are a rare genetic, autosomal disease in dogs that is mostly seen in the kidneys and sometimes in the liver also. In dogs, this disease is specific to certain breeds and they are born with small cysts in their kidneys.

Symptoms of Multiple Cysts

Though multiple cysts in dogs is not so common, when it is seen it is more troublesome. Since it is a genetic disease it is present right from the young age. In the younger stages, the kidneys and the cyst are small and while growing they also grow. As the cysts grow, it occupies most of the kidney tissues making the kidney difficult to function, leading to kidney failure. The cysts itself do not show any outward symptoms and they are visible only when it reaches the point where the kidneys fail to perform. At this stage the symptoms are the same as kidney failure. The symptoms arise when the cysts grow further and kills the nephrons. Without the nephrons, the kidneys cannot perform and that leads to complete stoppage of the kidney functions. It is the severe tissue damage that leads to symptoms and not the mere presence of the cysts.

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite or anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Sporadic vomiting
  • Depression
  • Lack of coordination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination

The dog may show abdominal palpitations due to the muscles twitching uncontrollably. High blood pressure or hypertension are the other symptoms. Abdominal pain is a common occurrence as the kidneys enlarge and press the other organs. Sometimes the dog may have fever because of any infection in the kidneys. The kidneys are more vulnerable to many diseases at this stage.

There are no known causes for the multiple kidney cysts in dogs. Genes are primarily responsible for this condition. Some environmental and endogenous factors are also believed to be involved. Some compounds like parathyroid hormones and peptide hormone-vasopressin contributes to the cyst formation, though not confirmed.


  • The primary diagnostic method is ultrasound diagnosis of the kidneys. Cysts when small are not easily diagnosed. They usually start with 1 mm in size to grow up to 2.5 cm. It may grow gradually to outgrow the kidneys.
  • Another method is to examine the cyst fluid. The cyst fluid is taken out using a needle and evaluated. The kidney fluid is also evaluated in case of a suspected cyst formation.
  • Liver diagnosis may also be conducted, as in most cases the multiple cysts in kidney will cause cyst formation in the liver as well. Urine analysis may also be conducted.
  • A bacterial culture of the cyst fluid is conducted to determine if there is any secondary bacterial infection due to the cysts. This secondary infections needs to be treated immediately.
  • A DNA test done by PCR analysis is a definitive diagnostic method to determine the presence of multiple cysts in dogs.
  • Blood count reveals the current condition of the kidneys. X-rays and biopsies are also conducted.


There is no definite and complete cure for multiple kidney cysts. The only thing that can be done is to slow the progression of the cyst growth. The treatment is done as in kidney failure cases. The veterinarian may prescribe medications to fight any secondary infections.

Medications are also prescribed for vomiting. Subcutaneous fluids may be administered in cases of dehydration due to kidney failure. The treatment is more effective if the cysts are diagnosed at an early stage. At this stage the progression of the cysts can be slowed down. But in no case can the cyst growth be reversed or cured. Removing the fluid from the cyst may work for a while but the cyst will get the fluid back soon. The dog with multiple cysts should be closely monitored and they need to be taken for check up every 2 months or at least every 6 months. The primary focus is given to the diet, supplements, and fluid intake.

  • Diet: The dog shows less appetite and may not eat anything. In any case the dog should be given a low protein diet as in the case of kidney failure. But the dog needs to be closely observed and blood tests are conducted frequently to make sure that the blood protein level is reduced drastically. The diet should also be less in sodium. Omega 3 fatty acids are given to the pets to overcome the acidity. The increase or decrease must be done gradually and not overnight. Avoid high protein foods like fish, meat, poultry, beans, and peas etc.
  • Supplements: Vitamin supplements are given as the dog eats very little and may show vitamin deficiency. It also helps curb the digestive disorders. Vitamin B helps as appetite stimulant. Potassium supplements are also given. Giving the pets some fermentable fiber helps remove toxins and is a great addition when the kidney fails to perform.
  • Fluid intake: The kidney failed dogs may suffer dehydration so make sure that the pet is drinking enough water. The liquid may be given additionally or make the food more watery. In severe cases subcutaneous drips may be given.
    Kidney Transplant is another option for those who can afford and have an opportunity for transplant. This may be the last option as not many dogs have had successful kidney transplants, though the success rate is better in the case of cats. It is also done when the pet is at a younger age.


Since the exact reason for the development of the kidney multiple cysts is unknown, there are no specific preventive measures. If the specific breeds that are prone to multiple cyst formation are known, measures may be taken to prevent breeding with those vulnerable breeds. It helps reduce the genetic diversity and reduce the occurrence of this disease and also in eliminating these unwanted traits gradually. Breeds that are vulnerable to multiple kidney cysts are, Golden Retrievers, Blue Merle Collie, Shiba, Belgian Shepherd, West Highland White Terriers, Staffordshire Bull terrier etc.


What we can do is to give proper care to the affected loved ones. if it is diagnosed early, take measures to ensure that it does not worsen. With proper diet and care the sufferings of the dog can be reduced. Give the medications at the proper time and make sure that the dog has adequate fluid intake. Always remember there is no complete cure and the survival of the dog depends entirely on the care it is given. Multiple cysts itself are not lethal but circumstances may arise that makes life more difficult for the pets.


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