What is the difference between kidney and renal failure?

Our question this week was:

I hear that the food recall is causing kidney failure and others say renal failure. What is the difference?


Pamela Brown


Hi – thanks for your email. Kidney failure and renal failure is the same thing. Medical terminology can be complicated. Sorry for the confusion.

I'll tell you a little about kidney failure then give you the link if you want more information.

Acute kidney failure (acute renal failure or ARF) is characterized by an abrupt decline in kidney function that leads to changes in the chemistry of the body including alterations in fluid and mineral balance. The changes that arise as a result of ARF affect almost every body system.

The kidneys filter blood, remove the waste products of metabolism, and eliminate them in the urine. The kidneys also regulate the volume and composition of body fluids (including mineral concentrations and acid base balance), and produce hormones that stimulate the production of red blood cells (erythropoietin) and regulate calcium balance (calcitriol).

Acute kidney failure can be caused by toxic injury to the kidneys, decreased blood flow and oxygen delivery to the kidneys, infections, obstruction of the kidneys and prevention of urine elimination caused by a ruptured bladder.

A couple articles that might be helpful to you are on our Petplace.com. "Acute Renal Failure in Cats" and "Acute Renal Failure in Dogs". These articles will give you more information about how renal failure is treated.

Dr. Debra

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