Perirenal fluid accumulation has been described as an ultrasonographic feature of urine leakage, hemorrhage, abscessation, or neoplasia. The purpose of this retrospective study was to report perirenal effusion as an additional ultrasonographic finding in canine and feline patients with acute renal failure. The causes of acute renal failure in 18 patients included nephrotoxicity (4), leptospirosis (3), ureteral obstruction (2), renal lymphoma (2), ureteronephrolithiasis (2), prostatic urethral obstruction (1) and interstitial nephritis and ureteritis (1). An underlying cause was not identified in three patients. The sonographic finding of perirenal fluid was bilateral in 15 patients. Unilateral perirenal fluid was identified ipsilateral to the site of ureteric obstruction in two patients. Large effusions extended into the caudal retroperitoneal space. Additional sonographic findings suggestive of renal parenchymal disease included mild (5), moderate (5) or severe (2) pyelectasia, increased renal echogenicity (11), increased (9) or decreased renal size (2) and ureteral and/or renal calculi (3). There did not appear to be an association between the volume of perirenal fluid and the severity of renal dysfunction. All patients with large effusions underwent euthanasia. Perirenal fluid developing in acute renal failure is thought to be an ultrafiltrate associated with tubular back-leak into the renal interstitium that overwhelms lymphatic drainage within the perirenal and retroperitoneal connective tissues although obstruction to urine flow may also play a role. Localized perirenal retroperitoneal free fluid may be a useful ultrasonographic feature to assist with the characterization of, and determination of prognosis in, patients with suspected renal disease.