With every serious disease, the old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is very true. With kidney disease, prevention is especially important because the symptoms of kidney problems are difficult to detect. Most pet owners don’t notice their dog or cat is developing renal failure until it’s too late or almost too late.
If you start off with healthy puppies and kittens from healthy parents, and you feed them a wholesome, natural diet, they will live long, healthy lives with well-functioning kidneys. Unfortunately, if you’re reading this, the odds are that your pet has a kidney problem that is in an advanced stage already. This is a serious condition, and you must get help, ideally from a holistic veterinarian.
Deterioration of the kidneys happens in both dogs and cats, but is more common in cats. In fact, it’s the second leading cause of death in cats, after feline leukemia, not taking accidents into account.
Symptoms of Kidney Disease:
One of the indicators that your dog or cat may develop a serious kidney problem is the recurrence of bladder and urinary tract problems. If your pet has a track record of these, it’s very important that you do not feed a commercial pet food. The worst thing you can do is feed kibble, and the second worst thing you can do is to leave it out all day. Doing those things almost guarantees that your cat will develop urinary tract problems which can lead to renal problems. It’s not good for your dog, either.
Other early signs to watch out for are increased thirst, inability to hold urine for extended periods of time, frequent urination, and pale urine. Your pet may also show signs of periodic lethargy, appetite loss, nausea, and vomiting. In later stages, your pet’s breath will smell foul, like urine.
One plus for cat owners is that it’s a little easier to detect a kidney problem in a cat because of the drinking pattern. Cats fed kibble will drink water, but cats in the wild, and those on a natural diet, drink little or no water. So if you notice that your cat is drinking water relatively frequently, you ought to visit a holistic veterinarian and get the kidneys checked. The same goes for your dog, although dogs drink more water than cats, by nature, so what you’re watching for there is just an abnormal increase in the amount of water consumed.
Besides the fact that these symptoms are not easily detected, it’s also difficult to notice kidney problems early on because the kidneys self-compensate when there is a problem. As much as two thirds of the kidney can be deteriorated, and the remaining third will do the job. But once you get to only twenty percent left of healthy kidney tissue, you have a real problem. And when you get to roughly fifteen percent, death follows.
Unfortunately, when pets, particularly cats, have urinary tract problems, they are often put on antibiotics and a “prescription” diet. The prescription diet will come from a can or a bag, and it will have acid added to it because an acidic urinary system prevents cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) and stones. This will mask the symptoms of a renal problem while the kidneys continue to deteriorate. In addition, in many of these cases the problem is not bacterial, so the prescribed antibiotics don’t even help. And an overuse of antibiotics only makes the overall health of the animal worse and exacerbates the kidney problem.
What the dog or cat ought to be eating is not something from a bag or a can. If your pet has any kind of kidney issue, the most important thing to be aware of is minimizing the amount of toxins in their system, because the kidney’s job is to filter out toxins. A natural diet is a must. And if kidney disease hasn’t developed yet, the way to make your pet’s internal system sufficiently acidic is to feed them their natural, raw meat diet, not something processed and packaged for long shelf life and mass distribution. Eating meat is what makes the system acidic. Urea is produced when meat is digested. That’s why cats and dogs have naturally acidic internal mechanisms – because they evolved on a raw meat diet in the wild.
Once your dog or cat is already at an advanced stage of renal disease, you can’t feed them their optimal diet anymore. You have to cut down on the amount of meat in their food because the kidneys can’t support the metabolic process of eliminating mass amounts of urea from a high meat diet. The answer is not, however, to feed them some sort of “prescription” food from a can. The answer is to modify the natural diet. This means a lesser percentage of meat, and a thoroughly cooked and easily digestible grain, such as enriched white rice. With less functioning kidney tissue, the wastes are driven through the body faster, as is everything else, so increased dosages of supplements are also vital.
Do not attempt to treat a kidney problem yourself. See a holistic veterinarian. The tips below are general guidelines, but you need professional help to deal with this deadly disease. When you bring your pet to the clinic, take along a urine sample, if possible, in a container that’s been sterilized with boiling water.
Herbal and Naturopathic Help
Some holistic veterinarians believe that glandular extracts can actually help to rebuild the kidneys, but most veterinarians, even holistic, homeopathic, and naturopathic doctors, say that nothing will repair or rebuild damaged kidney tissue. Once kidney disease has been diagnosed, the goal of treatment will be to prevent further deterioration of kidney tissues as much as possible, and to help what is left of the functioning portion of the kidneys to do their job. If the deterioration is too extensive, the best you can hope for is to extend your pet’s life a little longer, and to make that life as pleasant as possible.
In Pat Lazarus’s book, Keep Your Dog Healthy the Natural Way, a number of holistic veterinarians are interviewed about nephritis, which is serious inflammation of the kidneys, and uremia, the deadly stage of kidney disease where the body is poisoned by toxins in the bloodstream. All the veterinarians agree that, first and foremost, animals with a kidney problem need to be on a healthy diet made from natural foods that will put as little strain on the kidneys as possible. These foods need to create minimal waste as they are being digested. The amount of protein recommended for kidney patients varies from doctor to doctor, from none to thirty percent. All agree, though, that the protein must be of very high quality. To round out the diet, Dr. Richard Kearns recommends “well-ground and well-cooked grains, rice, squash, and greens.”
For the initial and very important step of flushing out the kidneys, Dr. Neal Weiner gives patients the equipment to administer an intravenous drip to run fluids underneath the skin and cleanse the body of toxins. He also says that he uses homeopathy to detox and cleanse the kidneys, and then he often uses a supplement called Renafood, which contains kidney glandulars. Other holistic veterinarians recommend the same treatments.
Acupuncture is often advised, as is an increase in vitamins C and B-complex, because they are water-soluble and will be flushed out of the animal’s system. Vitamin A is also supplemented because it’s good for the kidneys. And vitamin E is often advocated. Give a calcium supplement that doesn’t contain phosphorus but does contain magnesium and vitamin D. You want to avoid phosphorus because the damaged kidneys will have a hard time processing it.
In Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, Dr. Richard Pitcairn mentions that “many cats with kidney disease will develop a state of low potassium levels in the body, which further complicates the situation and creates symptoms in its own right.” Adding the right amount of potassium to your pet’s diet can be tricky, though, so ask your holistic veterinarian about how much, if any, and what kind of potassium you ought to give your pet. Also, make sure that you and your veterinarian are aware of all the ingredients in any supplements you are giving your pet. Some have potassium in them.
Parsnips and parsley are also given to pets with kidney disease. Parsnips help detoxify the kidneys, and parsley detoxifies, cleanses, and helps with kidney stones.
Dr. Pitcairn advises that you brush your pet’s fur regularly and give a bath with a natural, non-drying shampoo to help eliminate toxins that have accumulated in the skin. Skin irritations are another symptom of kidney disease because when the kidneys lose ability to rid the body of toxins, the skin works extra hard to cleanse the body of those toxins. The skin cleansing and kidney cleansing functions are related.
In addition, make sure that your pet’s environment is as toxin-free as possible, and make sure that your dog or cat has easy access to a place for defecation.
Herbs that have been useful in treating kidney disease include:
- Cleavers – a diuretic used to cleanse and support the kidney and bladder
- Marshmallow – a diuretic used to improve kidney function, soothe the urinary tract, and relieve cystitis and bladder infections
- Cornsilk – a diuretic used to cleanse and support the kidney and bladder
- Alfalfa –a mild diuretic used to treat kidney problems and kidney stones
- Astragalus Root – an adaptogen that supports immune function and kidney circulation
- Rehmannia – a Chinese herb said to be the “kidney’s own food” used as a blood tonic, a urine flow supporter, and an adaptogen that supports kidney circulation as well as kidney and liver function
- Nettle Seed Extract – an immune system booster used to help with circulation, detoxification, and balanced fluid retention
- Cordyceps sinensis Extract – an adaptogen and antioxidant used to support immune system function, energy production, removal of toxins, and kidney function
Rehmannia 8, also called Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan or Golden Book, is a classic combination of Chinese herbs used to strengthen kidney function. Ingredients include Rehmannia glutinosa root-prep, Dioscorea opposita rhizome, Cornus officinalis fruit, Paeonia suffruticosa root-bark, Poria cocos fungus, Alisma plantago aquatica rhizome, Cinnamomum cassia bark, Aconitum carmichaeli root-prep, Shu di huang, Shan yao, Shan zhu yu, Mu dan pi, Fu ling, Ze xie, Rou gui, and Fu zi.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be helpful for pets with kidney disease. Be sure to select a product that contains only omega-3 because pets get plenty of omega-6 in their food. It’s also important that the supplement is free from contaminants, and doesn’t come from farmed fish such as salmon. Research has also shown that probiotics are beneficial. And studies are currently being done on melatonin, which is believed to help, but conclusions haven’t been drawn yet.
It’s imperative that you consult with a veterinary homeopath before starting any homeopathic treatment for kidney problems. Nux vomica is often used to help detoxify a pet with kidney disease. There are other homeopathic remedies, but they are very particular to each pet’s situation and stage of illness.