Caring For Dogs With Kidney Disease
The kidneys are sophisticated trash collectors that process blood to sift out waste products and extra water. The waste and extra water become urine, which flows to your dog’s bladder through tubes called ureters. The bladder stores urine until your dog relieves himself.
The wastes in your dog’s blood come from the normal breakdown of active muscle and from the food he eats. After it has taken what it needs from the food, waste is sent to the blood where it will be filtered by the kidneys. If the kidneys did not remove these wastes, the wastes would build up in the blood and damage the body.
The kidneys also measure out chemicals like sodium, phosphorus, and potassium and release them back to the blood to return to the body. This is how the kidneys regulate the body’s level of these substances. The right balance is necessary for life, but excess levels can be harmful.
Kidney Failure Symptoms In Dogs
In the early stages of kidney disease, you’ll notice your dog drinking a lot more water in order to flush out excess toxins in the body that the kidneys are not filtering out. With time, the extra intake of water won’t help remove those toxins and you’ll begin to see more serious symptoms. These include:
- Anemia (pale gums and weakness)
- Dehydration (with a sudden and increased thirst)
- Increase in urination and/or trouble urinating
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
What Causes Kidney Disease In Dogs?
A number of factors can contribute to the development of kidney disease. These include:
- Poor quality, processed dry diets
- High blood pressure
- Kidney trauma
- Kidney stones
Of course, it’s always best to prevent kidney disease as opposed to treating it, so this list is important for any dog owner to understand. Refraining from over-vaccination and feeding a fresh, whole food are important changes every dog owner should make immediately.
Testing For Kidney Failure
A routine blood screen can detect kidney disease by measuring, among other values, the blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine. BUN and blood creatinine levels are used to measure the body waste products in your dog’s blood stream. High BUN and creatinine values can reveal high levels of waste products, which indicate kidney disease.
BUN and creatinine can also be used to monitor the progress of the disease. Decreasing values may indicate an improvement in the progress of kidney disease. Conversely, increasing values may mean that that your dog’s kidney failure is progressing and getting worse.
While BUN and creatinine levels can be important for diagnosing and monitoring kidney failure , there are also several other tests that are used to diagnose and monitor kidney failure in dogs. Blood levels of calcium, phosphorus and potassium can also be monitored in addition to the BUN and creatinine as they can affect the treatment of dogs with kidney failure.
Dog Kidney Failure Diet
Traditionally, vets have recommended restricting protein consumption because protein is high in phosphorus, which creates a high nitrogen load that can further stress the liver and kidneys.
But if your dog suffers from kidney disease, one of the most important things you can do for him is to get him off kibble and on to fresh foods. As for reducing the protein content of the diet, homeopathic vet Dr Don Hamilton offers the following:
“It is commonly thought that when there is any evidence of kidney disease, the protein level should be reduced. This is not correct for most animals. Protein reduction has little impact upon the progression of kidney disease. In fact, reducing the protein level in the diet may reduce the effectiveness of the kidneys. This is because the amount of blood filtered through the kidneys (the glomular filtration rate) is tied to protein in the diet, and reducing the protein reduces the filtering thus decreasing the excretion of toxins. (In rats, extra protein induces excessive glomular filtration, and restricting dietary protein prevents progression of renal failure. Though this has not been shown to occur in dogs or cats, this data is used to support protein restriction in these animals. I believe this is not correct, as dogs and cats are carnivores, whereas rats are primarily herbivores; this difference would account for different protein needs).”
However raw meats are still high in phosphorus. If your dog’s blood test indicates high levels of phosphorus, then tweaking the raw diet may be all that’s necessary.
Holistic vet Dr Jodie Gruenstern notes “You can do things to bind to phosphorus so it goes out in the poop and doesn’t build up in the blood. Feeding kidney patients a balanced raw diet with the appropriate calcium to phosphorus ratio will bind the phosphorus. We can also help that along by adding dark leafy green veggies, which can help remove excess phosphorus in the intestinal tract of dogs and this will keep the BUN levels down. So when you start to see your kidney patient act sick and not want to eat, adding dark, leafy greens to the diet, along with prebiotics and probiotics, will help remove any excess phosphorus through fecal waste, rather than through the bloodstream.”
(It’s important to cleanse the body of toxic waste because our dog’s absorb it every day in their food, water and environment.)
Chinese Medicine Options For Kidney Disease
Dr Anne Luther recommends certain Chinese herbs, which can cause increased blood flow through the kidneys, resulting in more toxins being cleared from the bloodstream.
“The formula I use most frequently is Ba Wei DiHuang Wan, also known as Rehmannia 8. This formula contains Fu Zi (aconite) andRou Gui (cinnamon), which are both very warming and have an invigorating effect on circulation.
“Rehmannia 8 increases renal blood flow and even when 60 to 70 per cent of the kidney is no longer functioning, a significant number of nephrons may still be able to function with adequate blood flow. I have seen renal values return to normal and even regain some degree of concentrating ability. The remaining portion of the formula is called Lui Wei Di Huang Wan (Rehmannia 6).”
Homeopathic Kidney Disease Remedies
There are also homeopathic remedies that can successfully treat many symptoms of kidney failure.
- Arsenicum album is great for animals with chilliness and thirst. These animals are often restless, especially after midnight. They may hang their heads over the water or food bowl but don’t eat or drink much.
- Mercurius may be of benefit in animals with advanced disease with oral ulcers and irritability.
- Natrum muriaticum (Nat mur) is good for animals that seek cool, rather than the usual heat seekers.
- Sulphur is a good remedy for the sluggish, unkempt animal. They are usually thirsty with poor appetites but are still very sociable.
Even if your pet has advanced kidney disease, don’t be discouraged. There are diet changes and natural treatment options that can add years of comfort to your dog. Find a holistic vet who will help you stay on track with this holistic approach and your dog will be well on his way to a happier outcome.