Dog Nephrectomy Recovery

Dog nephrectomy recovery follows a nephrectomy, a surgical procedure where one of your dog’s kidneys and the corresponding ureter is removed. It can only be carried out if your dog isn’t suffering from kidney failure in either kidney.

This procedure is rare and only used to treat serious, irreversible conditions that affect the kidney and ureter, including:

  • Cancer
  • Trauma to the kidney and/or the ureter
  • Persistent or recurring infection
  • Abnormalities of the ureter

How do I know if my dog needs a nephrectomy?

If your dog is suffering from problems with their kidneys, you’ll notice the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Increased drinking 
  • Increased urination 
  • Lethargy

So it’s important that your pet is examined by your vet as soon as they show these symptoms, so that your vet can quickly and effectively diagnose the issue and determine whether your dog can be treated therapeutically, or whether a nephrectomy will be necessary. 

Soft tissue surgery is usually a last resort, and is only undertaken when your dog is severely unwell. However, for conditions like advanced infections or kidney cancer, a nephrectomy is the first choice for treatment, especially where the cancer hasn’t moved to another part of the body so can therefore be effectively removed.

What happens during a nephrectomy?

If your vet has decided that your dog should undergo nephrectomy, they will need to carry out a number of steps before they can perform the procedure:

  1. Assess the health of the unaffected kidney using glomerular filtration rate (GFR)
  2. If the results show that cancer is suspected, your vet will carry out staging to determine how much the cancer has spread through your dog’s body
  3. Carry out a urinary analysis
  4. Undertake an abdominal ultrasound
  5. Make sure your pet isn’t dehydrated
  6. Correct any issues with electrolytes in your dog’s body

Your vet will then prepare to operate on your dog, something which will happen immediately if your pet has suffered trauma.

As with all surgeries, your dog will be placed under general anaesthetic and your vet will carry out an internal examination, checking their abdomen for any abnormalities, before moving on to the affected kidney.

Dog Nephrectomy Recovery

During the operation, the kidney will be removed from the thin tissue that keeps it separate from the rest of the abdominal cavity, before the renal vein and artery are tied off. These can then be cut, removing the blood supply to the kidney, and allowing the kidney and its corresponding ureter to be safely removed.

Providing your dog isn’t bleeding from the area where the kidney was, the wound will be closed and your pet can begin their nephrectomy recovery. 

As with all surgeries, there are some risks associated with nephrectomy, such as internal bleeding and urine leaking into the abdomen. It’s therefore essential that your pet is looked after by your vet during the first few days of their nephrectomy recovery.

Nephrectomy recovery in dogs

There are a few stages of dog nephrectomy recovery that all need to be considered.

Post-surgery pain management

Once your pet has come through surgery, they’ll be given pain medication to help reduce any pain experienced as a result of their operation. This will continue for a few days after the surgery.


They will stay in hospital for between 24 and 72 hours so that they can be monitored, and so that they can receive fluids, electrolytes, antibiotics and, where necessary, plasma, intravenously.

Rest at home

After 24 to 72 hours, and providing your vet is happy with how your pet is recovering, your pet can go home. They will need full rest while they heal, and during this time, you should look out for any signs of infection around the wound. These include:

  • Swelling
  • Pus or discharge
  • Redness

Follow up appointment

Providing your pet heals well, their incision should be fully healed about two weeks after their surgery. At this point, they will need to go back to your vet to have their stitches removed.

Your vet will also carry out a physical exam and blood tests to see how well your pet’s remaining kidney is functioning, and will ask about any signs that may indicate postoperative complications, such as bleeding. They will also check to make sure urine isn’t leaking into your pet’s abdomen.


Where cancer made the nephrectomy necessary, your dog will need to undergo chemotherapy, as well as veterinary diagnostic imaging procedures, such as ultrasounds and x-rays of their chest and abdomen to make sure the cancer hasn’t spread. 

Regular visits

Regular visits to your vet will be vital for ensuring that your pet’s remaining kidney is healthy.

Dog Nephrectomy Recovery

How successful is a nephrectomy?

While a nephrectomy is a major operation only carried out in severe cases, it has a two-fold benefit:

  • Ease the symptoms of irreversible kidney and ureter damage
  • Extend survival for cancer patients

A nephrectomy is permanent and therefore can’t be reversed, but as mentioned, it is only taken as a last resort in those cases where it is the only treatment option.

However, providing your pet has a full dog nephrectomy recovery and attends regular veterinary appointments, they should live a good life following their surgery.

Other treatments

For conditions where a nephrectomy isn’t necessary, your vet may consider other treatments, such as:

Partial nephrectomy

This procedure can help maintain some of the function in the affected kidney, thereby reducing the strain on the healthy kidney.

However, this carries its own risks in that your dog may experience more bleeding after their surgery, and it can sometimes pose a greater risk to your pet than completely removing the kidney.


This is where a resected ureter is implanted into the bladder. This may be needed if there has been trauma to the kidney, but it’s important to note that nephrectomy has a better patient outcome than ureteroneocystostomy.

If you need any further advice on dog nephrectomy recovery, please don’t hesitate to contact us or fill in our veterinary referral form.