There’s a one in ten chance* your dog will be affected by kidney disease in her lifetime.

And kidney disease is life-threatening.

It’s easy to miss early warning signs that your dog may have problems with her kidneys. And by the time signs of illness appear, 75 percent or more of the kidneys’ function may already be lost.

Early diagnosis is key. It allows you to stop the disease from progressing through diet and supplementation.

And unlike what conventional veterinarians will tell you, that doesn’t mean feeding an expensive prescription diet.

We’ll get to diet later. Let’s take a look at the kidneys first and go over warning signs you should look out for.

What The Kidneys Do

The kidneys are your dog’s water and toxin filtration system. They remove waste products from your dog’s bloodstream and regulate fluids. When the kidneys malfunction, large amounts of fluid are flushed out of the body with the urine.

The kidneys manage moisture. Without this, secondary constipation can occur.

The kidneys remove toxins.  If toxins are not removed, your dog can experience nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting.

The kidneys also make a hormone called erythropoietin which stimulate bone marrow production of new, baby red blood cells. Without this, your dog can become anemic.

Early Signs Of Kidney Disease

One of the first signs your dog may have a kidney problem is that she’s thirstier than usual and asks to go out more often. She may not be able to hold her urine overnight, and may ask to go out at night or have accidents in the house.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Sore mouth
  • Weakness
  • Lack of energy and sleeping more
  • Poor coat appearance
  • Depression

If you’re noticing some of these symptoms, check with your vet. Remember, the sooner kidney disease is diagnosed, the better the chance you have of saving your dog’s kidney function.

Your vet can run blood and urinalysis tests to confirm kidney disease.

Fortunately, if you catch it early, there’s a lot that can be done to manage your dog’s kidney disease with diet.

(NOTE: Diet plays a huge part in the prevention and management of illnesses like kidney disease… and poor diets can actually increase your dog’s chances of getting sick. Not sure if you’re feeding your dog the best you can? Download the free DNM Pet Food Analyzer and see what’s really in that bag of dog food.)

Managing Kidney Disease With Diet

Ever heard that low protein diets are recommended for dogs with kidney problems? If you have a conventional veterinarian, he’ll probably recommend you buy a low protein prescription diet for your dog. We’ll come back to this later.

These diets are both convenient and expensive.  And they probably won’t give your dog the nutritional support she needs.

At the Natural Canine Health Symposium (NCHS) in 2014, Dr Jodie Gruenstern gave a talk on kidney disease. She talked about why it’s not a good idea to feed kidney diet prescription kibbles and canned foods.

First of all, let’s take a look at the theory behind these foods.



Prescription Kidney Diets Are …

Protein Restricted

There is no reason to restrict protein in your dog’s diet.  Your dog needs high quality protein to maintain muscle mass.

Phosphorus Restricted

This is a good thing (we’ll talk more about phosphorus later).

Sodium Restricted

This is completely unnecessary and potentially harmful. Reducing sodium can lead to tissue dehydration. Your dog needs good trace minerals and salt to help her body retain moisture properly.

Vitamin B Supplemented

Vitamin B supplementation is okay.  Adequate vitamin B can help your dog’s appetite.

High Energy Diets

They are intended to put weight on your dog.

However, they use “junk” like poor quality fats and high carbohydrates to put weight on. Dogs need high quality protein to maintain muscle mass.

Supplemented With Omega-3 Fatty Acids

In processed form, these fats can easily become rancid, making these supplements ineffective and even harmful.

Prescription diets also alkalinize urine and blood, which is useful, but is done in an artificial way.

What Works Better

Here are some general dietary rules from Dr Gruenstern for dogs with kidney disease.

Quality Ingredients

Dr Gruenstern emphasizes feeding high quality protein to maintain muscle mass. Your dog also needs high quality fat for energy.

Nitrogen Trap to Remove Excess Protein

Because meat based diets are high in protein, your dog needs a “nitrogen trap” to help remove excess protein from the body.  The “nitrogen trap” helps  divert the waste products of protein metabolism from the bloodstream into the colon, which reduces the burden on the kidneys.

If your dog has a high BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) value when lab tests are done, the nitrogen trap can help lower the nitrogen (contained in protein) and lower her BUN levels.

There are many ways to do this. The easiest one is to feed lots of dark leafy greens, and add probiotics to your dog’s diet.


Your dog may need potassium supplementation as well as other products that help rebuild the kidney and aid detoxification (more about those in a minute).

Keep Your Dog Hydrated!

Dr Gruenstern strongly emphasizes the importance of fluid therapy.

No matter what diet you’re feeding and what supplements you’re giving, you must monitor your dog closely for signs of dehydration.  If your dog’s stool is hard and dry or if your dog is lethargic, you need to get more fluids into him.

In Dr Gruenstern’s practice she teaches all owners of dogs with chronic kidney disease how to recognize the symptoms of dehydration and how to do subcutaneous therapy at home. You should ask your vet to do the same for you so that you don’t need to take your dog to the clinic if she needs hydrating.

What You Should Feed 

The ideal diet for a dog with kidney disease includes:

A Species-Appropriate Raw, Balanced Meat Based Diet

The food needs to be wet, and it needs to be warm.

In nature, prey is not refrigerated, so a truly natural diet shouldn’t be fed straight out of the refrigerator.  Take your dog’s food out of the refrigerator ahead of feeding to let it come to room temperature.

Don’t microwave or cook the food to warm it. It reduces the nutritional value of the food.

Nitrogen Trap

Add a nitrogen trap of probiotic supplements and the prebiotics that feed them, plus blended leafy greens, which provide enzymes and whole food vitamins.

Probiotics help balance the bacteria in your dog’s gut to maintain a healthy digestive system.  Natural sources of probiotics include fermented foods like kefir or fermented vegetables, or you can give a high quality probiotic supplement. Read more about probiotics in this article.

Prebiotics are non-digestible plant fibers that provide food for the probiotics.  Sources of prebiotics include fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and beet pulp (but some dogs may suffer gassiness with beet pulp). Raw garlic and dandelion greens are other good sources of prebiotics.

It’s important to always avoid laboratory derived (synthetic) vitamins and minerals. They create extra stress on the kidneys and are not well absorbed by the body.

Feed Kidneys

Feed organ meat as 10-15 percent of your dog’s diet.

It’s especially important to feed your dog kidneys. The nutrients in kidneys can help support the kidney itself!

More About Phosphorus

Since phosphorus can create extra work for the kidneys, it’s best to choose protein sources with lower phosphorus content.

The chart below shows the phosphorus content of some foods you might give your dog.

You can see that sardines are high in phosphorus, so it’s okay to feed a sardine as a treat, but you wouldn’t want to give a whole meal of sardines.

Near the other end of the scale you’ll see wild duck is low in phosphorus, so that is a great meat source if you can get it.

Quinoa is a complete protein that’s a great option, especially for end-stage kidney patients.



Phosphorus Binders

Another way to address the high levels of phosphorus in meat diets is to add phosphorus binding agents to the diet.  Phosphorus binders help to pass excess phosphorus out of the body in the stool, so there is less phosphorus entering the blood stream.

Phosphorus binders are usually calcium sources … not just bone, but also products like Epakitin or Chitosan (both available at health food stores) or calcium carbonate (the active ingredient in Tums).

The dosage amount of these supplements will depend on your dog’s diet as well as your dog’s ongoing phosphorus levels, which your veterinarian should be monitoring.  Talk to your holistic veterinarian about the amount of phosphorus binders your dog needs.


Feeding foods high in potassium can help maintain your dog’s potassium levels. Bananas and green beans are two of Dr Gruenstern’s favorites!

Supplements For Kidney Health

Protomorphogens (PMGs)

PMGs (made by Standard Process) are growth factors that may be able to reprogram the cells at a DNA level to help regenerate kidneys. The conventional belief is that the kidneys can’t regenerate, but Dr Gruenstern firmly believes that if you can support a pet long enough, it is possible to restore the kidneys to better health. 

Glandular Supplements

Standard Process’s Canine Kidney Support supplement contains the following ingredients:


You’ll note the second ingredient is kidney bean extract.  Ever heard of the doctrine of signatures? It states that there are particular plants (or parts of plants) that look like the organ, gland or tissue that you’re trying to help.

So in this instance, kidney beans help support the kidney organ!

Standard Process’s supplements are only available through medical practitioners. You will need to ask your vet for help in getting their products.

Western Herbs

Dandelion, parsley and urva-ursi: these herbs all support the kidneys. Add some fresh chopped herbs to your dog’s food – a pinch per 10 lbs up to 1 Tbsp for a dog 100 lbs or larger.

If you buy dried herbs, capsules or tincture, assume the dose on the label is for a 150 lb human and adjust the dose for your dog’s weight.

Cordyceps mushroom: this mushroom has great affinity for the urinary tract and there are many good supplements that contain it.

Animal Apawthecary’s Tinkle Tonic: this supplement can be used preventively and as part of ongoing kidney support.

Chinese Herbs

Rehmannia is a Chinese herb that nourishes the kidneys and is used in Standard Process’s Rehmannia Complex.

The Chinese formulas below also include Rehmannia.  You’ll need a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) practitioner (find one at to tell you which combination is best for your dog, as it depends on his Chinese medicine diagnosis.  This is usually done by observing the tongue and pulse.

  • Ba Wei Di Huang Wan
  • Liu Wei Di Huang Wan
  • Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan

These are some general guidelines you can use for supplement that can support your dog’s kidneys. Don’t forget to consult your holistic vet about other nutritional support that might help your dog’s individual needs.

If you don’t have a holistic vet, you can find one at … or find a homeopathic vet at

*Source: The Pet Health Network

A big thank-you to Dr Gruenstern for this awesome information she shared during her talk at the 2014 NCHS.

(NOTE: Diet plays a huge part in the prevention and management of illnesses like kidney disease… and poor diets can actually increase your dog’s chances of getting sick. Not sure if you’re feeding your dog the best you can? Download the free DNM Pet Food Analyzer and see what’s really in that bag of dog food.)