I have a Chihuahua (approx. 7lbs) that just turned 14. Recently he started eating a lot of dirt. A LOT. Then he stopped eating so much, and acting sluggish and slow, so to the vet we went. They say he is in kidney failure and to put him down. I brought him back home and put him on just a water / wet dog food diet and he is more active, but still eating dirt. His poo was dark black, and now more regular in color, and he urinates very frequently. He can now go outside on his own, where as before he could not. Called another vet and they suggested Science Diet at the cost of 82 bucks here. I think my dog is like a little old person and can be helped in a different way instead of just ‘put him down’ I have had all my dogs well over their 17 birthdays . Any suggestions for my Bingo Boy?

Thank you,
~ Chris

Dr. Jane DoyleDear Chris,

I agree with you that there are other options than “putting them down” for dogs in renal (kidney) failure.

First, let’s look at the basics. Renal failure is a chronic disease unless it is caused acutely by some kind of toxin or infection that targets the kidney tissue and function. One of those toxins is ethylene glycol (the sweet-tasting stuff in antifreeze used in internal combustion engines) and by the time symptoms appear, it’s too late to save the pet. Acute kidney failure results in death pretty quickly.

Bingo Boy has chronic renal failure (CRF). The kidneys are losing their ability to do their job, which is to excrete toxins (these are toxins that are normal bi-products of metabolism) while maintaining healthy hydration status of the body. Kidneys can lose that function for a while before any symptoms appear, because we have three times more kidney tissue than we need in order for their job to be done. In other words, two-thirds of kidney function can be lost before symptoms of kidney failure appear. That is how people can donate a kidney and do well with their remaining kidney.

The two aspects of CRF that we can address are the toxins produced by protein metabolism and the water balance that the kidneys are losing the ability to maintain.

It is important for Bingo Boy to be on a good diet that does not tax his kidneys any more than necessary. A lot of people view the protein level alone, settling for very poor quality proteins that can be found in most commercially prepared dog foods. It is important, however, for the protein that he does eat to be high-quality. This means fresh raw meats, eggs and fish. There are many recipes available on line.

As his kidneys are losing the ability to conserve water, Bingo Boy urinates more and then drinks more in order to replace the water he’s lost. That can result in a phenomenon called medullary washout. The kidneys get on a vicious cycle of being less and less able to conserve water. That cycle can be hindered or broken by giving Bingo Boy subcutaneous fluids that will replace not only water but also electrolytes that are being lost in his urine.

Finally, I prescribe a homeopathic remedy for my CRF patients. The remedy is chosen individually to fit the particular patient. Homeopathic remedies stimulate the body to heal itself, and I have found that it is possible to stop the progression of the loss of kidney function, even if the kidneys cannot heal. In choosing a remedy for Bingo boy, I would include the symptom of eating dirt. The intention is for the remedy to assist in getting that symptom to go away.

All the best,
Dr. Jane