The kidneys serve many vital functions. They filter and remove toxic wastes from the body via the urine, regulate calcium and vitamin D levels, maintain fluid levels, and secrete the hormone responsible for red blood cell production. Anything that interferes with the kidneys’ ability to function properly can cause kidney disease, which is the second only to cancer as a leading cause of death in dogs. In most cases, progressive age-related deterioration is responsible, with no apparent cause. Other causes of kidney disease include bacterial and viral infections, nutritional factors, immune system defects, toxins, and inherited breed disorders.
“Acute” kidney disease occurs suddenly, is rare in dogs, and with prompt treatment is generally reversible. Long-term “chronic” kidney disease is also called chronic renal disease and is the most common form in dogs. It is usually the result of slow age-related deterioration of the kidneys. Chronic Kidney Disease is not reversible but is treatable.
Initially dogs drink and urinate excessively. The urine produced is dilute so dogs become dehydrated and drink alot to try to replace the lost fluids. No matter how much they drink, they are unable to maintain normal hydration. Advanced signs of Kidney Disease include weight loss, vomiting, depression and loss of appetite. Signs are not apparent until 80 percent of kidney function is already lost. Routine diagnostics include blood and urine tests as well as abdominal x-rays. A kidney biopsy is generally necessary to confirm the exact cause. In most cases, a biopsy is not obtained and treatment is symptomatic.
WHAT YOU AND YOUR VET CAN DO
- Fluid therapy is the single most important factor in the treatment of kidney disease. The kidneys normally function to maintain fluid levels by concentrating the urine. With kidney disease, excess fluids are lost into the urine so dehydration is a major problem. Good nutrition is also critical. The goal is to decrease the workload on the kidneys by decreasing the amount of waste the kidneys must eliminate. Excess dietary protein, phosphorus, and salt create a lot of waste, diets should therefore contain small amounts of high-quality proteins, low salt (use salt substitute), and low phosphorus. Anemia or a low number of red blood cells is often also a problem with Kidney Disease. Supplementing the diet with B-vitamins and iron stimulates red blood cell production, which helps counteract anemia.
- Newer therapies may include Calcitriol, which is a form of vitamin D and is prepared specifically for each dog. Capsules are given by mouth once daily. Calcitriol helps prevent further kidney deterioration and is given routinely to human dialysis patients. In pets, it is still considered experimental. So far the results have been very promising for both dogs and cats. Kidney transplants are a treatment option in extreme cases.
- Long-term management involves monitoring kidney functions with blood and urine tests every three to six months. At home hydration can be monitored by pinching the skin on the back of the dog’s neck. Hold it for five seconds, then release. If it takes over five seconds for the skin to return to normal, the dog is dehydrated and fluids are indicated. In certain cases, owners may learn to give subcutaneous fluids under the skin at home. Most dogs enjoy a good quality of life for several years.
HERBAL REMEDIES CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE FAILURE
- Fish oil is a source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Rhubarb (Rheum Officinale)
- B Vitamins or a multi-vitamin mineral supplement and a glandular or dietary beef kidney.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) one tablet per 30 pounds of body weight given once daily may help strengthen kidney tissue. Crush and mix with food. Fresh parsley is a diuretic herb which promotes urination and may be useful in certain cases.
Kali chloricum is recommended for long-term kidney disorders. Arsenicum album 30c counteracts vomiting in acute Kidney Disease. Silicea 30c helps to slow down degeneration of kidney tissue in long-term cases.