Progressive loss of nephron function may be caused by persistence of factors that initiated renal disease. However, newer studies suggest that nephron damage is self-perpetuating once renal mass is reduced to some critical level. Original theories on mechanisms of self-perpetuated nephron injury focused on intraglomerular hypertension and glomerular hypertrophy, but several other factors have now been incriminated, including tubulointerstitial responses, proteinuria, and oxidative stress. Studies of dogs with surgically reduced renal mass (remnant kidney model of chronic renal disease) have allowed investigation of the self-progression theory in this species. Use of this model eliminates pre-existing renal disease as a confounding factor. Data from these studies indicate that self-perpetuated renal injury is initiated when mild azotemia is induced (plasma creatinine concentration = 2 to 4 mg/dL). Thus, with naturally occurring renal disease(s), it is likely that self-perpetuated nephron damage is occurring before or at the time when most cases of chronic renal disease are diagnosed. In dogs with remnant kidneys, loss of renal function often occurs at a linear rate over time, but non-linear patterns are common as well. The reciprocal of plasma creatinine concentration, which has been used to monitor rate of progression, is only a fair marker of renal function when compared to GFR. Thus, clinical results from creatinine measurements on cases of naturally occurring disease should not be interpreted too stringently. In remnant kidney dogs, the magnitude of proteinuria (UPC ratio) was not predictive of the rate in decline of GFR, casting doubt on importance of proteinuria in causing progression of renal disease. However, progressive increases in UPC may be a marker of an accelerated rate of renal injury. Self-perpetuation of renal injury in dogs could be the sole mechanism by which naturally occurring renal diseases progress. When more information is available on the rate of progression of naturally occurring diseases, it may become apparent whether factors initially inciting renal damage have an additive effect on rate of progression.