Useful info about

Kidney disease in dogs

During 50 years of owning and loving dogs, Carole Curtis has unearthed some
enlightening facts about holistic treatments for dogs with kidney disease


About Carole

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How conventional and holistic view points
differ in the treatment of kidney
disease in dogs?

This article discusses kidney disease in dogs and seeks to make dog parents more aware of:

  • The subtle symptoms of renal failure before it's too late to reverse any damage already done
  • The difference between conventional and holistic viewpoints and treatments.

Conventional vets focus mainly on treating the "symptoms" of kidney disease with traditional prescription drug protocols as approved by the FDA.

Whereas holistic vets treat the "root causes" of kidney disease. This includes treating the general well being and harmony of every cell in the dog's body, rather than just the symptoms of the disease.

I have a preference for taking an holistic approach for treating my dogs Molly and Rosie when they are not well. This is because holistic vets use prescription drugs sparingly and focus primarily on natural therapies, e.g. acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese herbs together with homeopathic remedies.

kidney diseasein dogs

Kidney disease is becoming more and more prevalent in dogs these days, and sadly not just in senior dogs, as used to be to be the norm. You may even know someone whose dog has kidney disease.

Whilst prevention is always the best method of treating any disease, early symptoms and moderate cases are often missed and not recognised by the untrained eye. In fact, in many cases the damage to dogs kidneys by the onset and continuance of renal disease has already been done before pet parents notice anything wrong.

Suffice to say early detection of symptoms of renal failure are imperative to effectively manage the condition, and more importantly, for there to be any chance of being able to reverse the damage this insidious and debilitating disease can do to dogs.

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How dogs' kidneys work

The kidneys are bean-shaped organs, located just behind your dog's rib cage. These organs each contain about a million tiny units called nephrons, which process blood to filter out waste products and extra water, which becomes urine.

The dog's bladder is a special muscle, which performs the very important function of filling and emptying urine. Urine flows into it from the dog's kidneys, and out of it through tubes called ureters each and every time your dog relieves him or herself. kidney diseasein dogs

Waste in your dog's blood comes from the normal breakdown of active muscles and from his food intake.

After the dog's body has taken from his or her food what it needs for energy and self repair, the waste is sent via the blood system to the kidneys for the process of filtering to take place.

Without this cleansing process, waste products would build up and damage the dog's body.

The kidneys are also responsible for regulating the levels of chemicals like sodium, phosphorus and potassium and releasing them back into the blood system to return to the dog's body. The right balance is necessary for life, and excess levels can be harmful.

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Types of kidney failure

There are two types of renal (kidney) failure, "acute" and "chronic".

Acute renal failure (ARF)

In acute renal failure, the symptoms appear suddenly and can be quite severe, the most common are:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of urine production, especially in cases of urinary obstruction

ARF is a potentially fatal condition and must be treated immediately in order to save your pet's life.

ARF is often caused by waste products and toxins that build up in the body, known as nephrotoxins. Common toxins and poisons that are well known to cause kidney failure include:

  • Certain antibiotics, e.g. the aminoglycoside group of bacterial antibiotics
  • Antifreeze
  • Rat bait
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Anything that decreases blood flow through the kidney will cause renal failure

If your pet has ARF, the best approach is to consult with a homeopathic vet immediately. There are a number of Homeopathic remedies that are effective, depending on the cause and the symptoms.

Animals with ARF should also receive intravenous fluids under the care of a vet.

The good news is that ARF can be treated successfully if caught early enough. Unfortunately, in some cases it becomes chronic and is more difficult to treat.

Chronic Kidney Disease and Failure (CKD, CRF, CRD)

Chronic kidney disease is defined as kidney disease that has been present for months to years. Chronic renal disease (CRD), chronic renal failure (CRF), and chronic renal insufficiency refer to the same condition.

CKD is not a single disease. There are many different causes of CKD, but by the time the animal shows signs of kidney disease the cause may no longer be apparent. Some potential causes of CRF include:

  • Over vaccinating e.g. continuing to vaccinate annually, instead of adopting the current guidelines of once every three years is a prime suspect
  • Commercially produced dog foods lacking in nutrition as opposed to home prepared meals play a huge a role in the development of the disease
  • Congenital malformation of the kidneys (birth defects)
  • Chronic bacterial infection of the kidneys with or without kidney stones (pyelonephritis)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Diseases associated with the immune system (e.g. glomerulonephritis, systemic lupus))
  • Acute kidney disease, for example poisoning with antifreeze, that damages the kidneys can lead to CKD

Often the cause of CKD is unknown.

Timely diagnosis with ongoing vet care and a good home prepared diet will help to maintain your pet's quality of life.

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Preventing kidney disease

Not every cause of renal failure in dogs is known or understood, nor can every case of ARF or CRF be prevented. However, there are a number of things within your personal control that can go a long way toward promoting the health and longevity of your precious furry friend's kidney function.

  • Take note of even small changes in your pet’s behavior, appetite, thirst and energy level. Don’t assume increased thirst and urination is nothing to be concerned about. Trust your inner voice and make an appointment with your holistic vet to discuss the state of your dog’s health.
  • Many situations of acute renal failure can be prevented by ensuring dogs are kept safely away from toxic substances like antifreeze, heavy metals, rat poison and other pesticides, common household medicines, and certain foods and plants
  • Any dog with a bacterial infection, urinary obstruction or other illness that could lead to compromised kidney function should receive proper treatment, the sooner the better
  • Preventing kidney disease in dogs

  • Limiting the drugs, vaccines and surgical procedures your pet is subjected to throughout his or her life will reduce the amount of toxins their livers and kidneys must process. Kidney failure in elderly dogs is usually the result of worn out organs. The less stress on your pet’s kidneys, the longer they’ll do their job effectively
  • Insuring your dog is never struck or kicked or gets out in a roadway will prevent possible trauma to his or her kidneys that could lead to renal failure
  • Feeding a balanced, home prepared, species-appropriate diet instead of commercial pet food will supply your dog’s body with the fundamental nutrition he or she requires for the health of every organ and system in its body, including his or her kidneys. Low quality, highly processed pet foods – in particular dry kibble, which lacks the moisture content and quality protein pets need - are being linked to many of the degenerative diseases seen in pets today
  • Access to fresh water daily
  • Perform regular at-home wellness exams and make sure your dog gets at least one and preferably two wellness visits with your holistic vet each year. This is the best way to stay on top of your pet’s health and address problems as they arise

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Early signs and symptoms

The first symptoms of CRF are:

  • An increase in drinking and urination.
  • Changes in your pet's coat
  • Dry and flaky skin
  • Extremely bad breath

These changes can be gradual and are easy to miss, so it's a good idea to perform laboratory tests annually or semi-annually on older pets. Testing should always include blood tests and a urinalysis. Kidney disease usually shows up first in the urinalysis.

An increase in protein in the urine often appears prior to increased drinking and urination. Early detection of this protein allows your holistic vet to help slow the progression of the disease.

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Later symptoms

As the disease progresses, your pet will lose the ability to concentrate his or her urine and this results in an increase in urine production.

At this stage of kidney disease, your pet will have lost approximately two-thirds of its nephrons in the kidneys. (Remember, nephrons are the functional units that remove waste and extra fluids from the blood.) Usually, the only noticeable changes in your pet at this time are the increased drinking and urination.

Preventing kidney disease in dogs

As the disease progresses to a point where three quarters of the nephrons are not functioning, blood work starts to reveal changes.

These usually include an increase in Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine (A creatinine test reveals important information about your kidneys.

Creatinine is a chemical waste product that's produced by muscle metabolism and to a smaller extent by eating meat.

Healthy kidneys filter creatinine and other waste products from the blood. The filtered waste products leave the dog's body in its urine. At this stage your pet may have all or some of the following symptoms:

  • Increased thirst leading to excessive drinking leading to increased urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Foul smelling breath
  • Weakness
  • A dull coat
  • Weight loss
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Sunken eyes
  • Depression
  • Lack of co-ordination when walking

Unfortunately, this is often the stage at which many pets are first taken to the vet. By then they are usually depressed and dehydrated. They need to be hospitalized and receive IV fluids until their blood urea nitrogen and creatinine come down to an acceptable level.

This is very stressful for pets and expensive for their owners – another reason why early detection and prevention are so important.

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Why conventional treatment can be ineffective

Conventional treatment aims to lower the level of protein in the blood by feeding a prescription diet low in protein. However, a diet low in protein impedes the formation of blood urea nitrogen and creatinine because both are byproducts of protein metabolism.

Lowering protein intake only "masks" the problem and does not treat the underlying kidney disease.

In fact, reducing the protein level in a dog's diet may actually reduce the effectiveness of its kidneys, because:

  • The amount of blood filtered through the kidneys is directly related to the amount of protein in a dogs diet, and
  • Infiltration reduction results in less toxins being excreted by the kidneys

Reduction of protein intake should only be resorted to when the dogs kidney function decreases to a point where toxin build up results in:

  • Vomiting
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Anorexia

Most conventional treatments for renal failure only marginally slow the progression of the disease, whereas alternative treatments are often very successful at arresting or even reversing kidney disease.

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Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine

Acupuncture for treating kidney disease in dogs

Recent studies indicate that acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as well as nutritional supplements have been successfully used to prevent and even reversed CRF in dogs.

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Chinese Herbs

Certain Chinese herbs have thousands of years of documented success. These herbs work much better than conventional treatments because they cause increased blood flow through the kidneys, which results in more toxins being cleared from the bloodstream.

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Homeopathic remedies

The following homeopathic remedies can successfully treat many symptoms of CRF:

  • 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. I have seen amazing results, especially with traditional Chinese medicine, which has saved many pets who had been pronounced incurable.

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Home care

Acute renal failure is a life-threatening condition and there is no effective home treatment. If you suspect your dog has this condition, or has ingested anything that may be toxic, you should call your holistic vet immediately. Your vet may instruct you to induce vomiting before bringing your pet to the hospital.

Administer any medications prescribed by your vet. Follow-up examinations and laboratory tests are important to assess your dog's response to treatment.

Allow free access to fresh clean water daily.

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Genetic breed predisposition to renal failure and renal diseases

There are some breeds that are naturally more susceptible to kidney diseases than others, these are: Dogs more susceptible to kidney diseases than others

  • Beagles
  • Bull terriers
  • Cairn terriers
  • Cocker spaniel
  • Doberman pinschers
  • German shepherds
  • Golden retrievers
  • Lhasa apsos
  • Norwegian elkhounds
  • Samoyeds
  • Shih Tzus
  • Soft-coated wheaten terriers

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If, after reading this article you feel your precious furry friend may be experiencing one or more of the above symptoms, please contact your vet (preferably a holistic vet) and ask to have a blood test for the presence of renal failure. The test is very inexpensive and only takes a minute or two to do.

Reference: Courtesy Dogs Naturally Magazine Inc

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This article and information forms part of the Carole's Doggie World Library and is presented for informational purposes only and not intended as an endorsement of any product. The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local veterinarian. Instead, the content offers the reader information researched and written by Carole Curtis for

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Your dogs suffer in silence because they cant tell you about . . .
their painful teeth    |     their flea problems    |     or their allergies

Follow these links and soak up the free information to gain a happier, healthier dog who thinks you are the best person on the planet!

Copyright © 2015 Carole Curtis

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