By Dr. Jeanette (Jeannie) Thomason

Kidney Disease In Dogs –

Whenever there is a problem with the kidneys (or bladder) it is a message or warning that means something is in the body that should not be there — usually toxins and too many of them.

The kidneys are like a filter, they will filter freely for a long time and clog very slowly. If the kidneys are not cleaned out periodically though, they will eventually clog causing urinary tract problems and eventually kidney failure. The solution is to clean or keep the kidneys cleaned out so this filter can flow freely. Once the filter flows freely the body is able to function properly.

Dis-ease will not happen is a clean body or a body with a strong, properly functioning immune system. A body with a strong immune system is vital to keep the body clean as this WILL prevent disease. So, if the kidneys are kept clean and unclogged, does it not only make sense that your pet can not get kidney disease?

I hear on a regular basis that “My pet is not sick so I don’t need to do that.” If I can share one bit of wisdom to empower you, it is that, you want to PREVENT dis-ease, keep the animals body in balance, NOT wait until you see symptoms. Keep the body clean by eliminating toxic foods and chemical based products from your home, garden and the pet’s environment in the first place. Build and maintain a healthy immune system.

Chronic Renal Failure or Kidney Disease/Failure in our pets, is being more frequently diagnosed then ever before in history. Why do you think this is so?

Most animals do not even show signs of kidney failure until about 70% – 75% of their kidney function has already been lost. In order to diagnose CRF/CIN and determine the extent of the disease, a blood test and urinalysis is needed.

Once a pet has been diagnosed with Kidney disease or renal failure, and the pet owners come to me for a consultation, they generally all tell me the same thing: “My vet said there’s nothing he can do – just make Spotty more comfortable and try to prolong his life as much as possible. Lets keep him on antibiotics and this special “Prescription -Kidney Diet Kibble”.

I hope you are reading this article because you know there is a more natural way to cope with and aid your pet with kidney disease

Now, let’s take a look at the kidneys…

Photo from Merck Veterinary Manual_dog_kidneys

First it is important to understand a little about the kidneys and what they do. It’s important that you have an idea as to what the kidneys do and to know what is NOT normal and what is and, possibly, help your pet’s health practitioner/provider. You are in charge of your pet’s healing in a very real way and knowledge is power!

The kidneys filter water, glucose, salts, and nitrogenous wastes (including urea and uric acid) filtered from the bloodstream (proteins being filtered out). This mechanism is dependent upon and extraordinary amount of pressure. Consequently, increases or decreases in blood pressure affect the flow of urine. Urine itself is a concentrate of the liquid that passes into the kidneys; most of its constituents are returned to the bloodstream, some are retained and others manufactured as wastes (e.g., ammonia).

“Kidney disease or kidney failure” might mean compromised, over-worked kidneys – or it might mean damaged kidneys (i.e., severe, chronic renal failure).

Kidneys can be damaged – by a whole slew of environmental poisons, processed pet foods and veterinary treatment drugs. Kidneys can also be damaged via other disease forces as well (such as kidney infections, diabetes, leptospirosis, cancer, as examples).

In severe renal failure, hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis may be recommended, More commonly at this stage, you or your animal health care practitioner may have to inject fluids into your dog (usually just under the skin at the scruff of the neck or possibly through a vein) to keep them going.

Kidney failure or renal disease symptoms include – increased thirst, dehydration, loss of appetite, urination changes, maybe nausea and pain. Kidney failure or renal disease is quite common lately in elderly pets – systems do fail as we get older, whoever we are. But the kidneys job are one of the critical factors in eliminating toxins from the body – and they become less efficient with age, and with toxin loading.

The skin, actually, the largest eliminative organ, chronic skin issues are often linked to kidney troubles. It has been found that long-term skin irritation and eruption often seem to precede eventual kidney failure in old age. If the skin disorder is repeatedly suppressed with doses of cortisone or other related corticosteroid drugs, the relationship seems especially true. This is a good reason to rely on a natural healing modality like proper nutrition, herbs or homeopathy for skin disorders!

So first, consider what you’re loading your pet’s body! Again, the idea is to prevent kidney disease or any disease for that matter. This is best done by being careful what you are putting into your pet,avoiding toxic substances and living by the 8 laws of health.

Please keep in mind that anything overtaxing the liver and kidneys is being detrimental to your pet’s health.

The Foundation For Kidney Health is Proper Nutrition


Diet appears to be about 98% of the cause of the problem when dealing with kidney dysfunction as most processed pet foods contain little to no true quality nutrition. Its ingredients in proessed pet food actually contribute to kidney and liver disease. (see my article – Kibble is kibble is STILL kibble

Food and drink are so basic… And let’s face it, processed pet food has all kinds of garbage in it and is cooked at such high temperatures that any nutrition they may have been in there at all; has been destroyed/killed! If you are still feeding processed pet food, here’s another article that will help explain why commercial pet foods are not as healthy or nutritious as we have all been lead to believe: What’s Really In Pet Food?”

From a “naturopathic/holistic” approach, it is very important to feed an ALL Natural, Raw, Species Specific diet to our pets.

Diet is frequently discussed as a form of treatment as well as a cause of renal diseases and failure in dogs and cats.

Most conventional, western medicine veterinarians will  usually recommend a low protein diet for dogs and cats diagnoised with kidney and/or liver issues.

It is true that the poor quality cooked protein in commercial diets is converted to BUN by the liver. …. But our carnivore companions do need their protein. The thing is, it must be RAW …. high quality fresh. protein foods, which are available in human grade meat . i.e. human grade chicken, turkey, lamb and even certian organs and cuts of beef (Not canned or store bought pet food).

While most adult dogs are best fed only one meal a day, in the case of kidney disease it has been recommended to feed four SMALL meals daily. I have not researched this out yet myself but it is said that Kidneys will cope better if there is less to process each time. I would experiment with this. Most information available on dogs with kidney disease is based on human health and humans have totally different digestive systems than dogs do and more than likely this recommendation is referring to feeding processed pet food as well.

“It is also recommended to provide a low sodium diet (Keep in mind that processed, commercial pet foods tend to have quite a bit of sodium in them) to decrease any hypertension which may be damaging the kidneys and low phosphorous since it appears that phosphorous may actually be a major cause of damage in deteriorating kidneys.

Everyone has heard the words: “Too much protein!  Kidney damage!”  Well, guess what? The very early research that pointed a condeming finger at protein as being a cause of kidney failure in dogs wasn’t even done on dogs! It was done on rats fed unnatural diets for an omnivore rodent… diets high in protein. (Were we tinkering with nature during these tests).  Rats have difficulty excreting excess protein in their diets because they are essentially plant eaters, (omnivores) NOT meat heavy eaters.

Dogs are quite able to tolerate diets with protein levels higher than 30% on a dry weight basis. Dogs are carnivores (meat eaters); that’s how the Creator made them! Rats are not. So some of the early research on rats was assumed to be true for dogs… and the myth of “too much protein in a dog’s diet causes kidney damage” was started. And just like any seemingly valid rumor or assertion, it derived a life of its own and is only recently being accepted as untrue.

Here is just one of many references that recently have appeared asserting the lack of data indicating that reducing the protein level in a food helps to protect the kidneys… Kirk’s Veterinary Therapy XIII, Small Animal Practice, page 861, written by Finco, Brown, Barsanti and Bartges “…restriction of protein intake does not alter the development of renal lesions nor does it preserve renal function. Considering these (research) findings, the authors do not recommend reduction of dietary protein in dogs with renal disease or reduced renal function in order to achieve renoprotective effects.”

The successful management of canine kidney disease requires careful food choices balancing your dog’s appetite and food preferences with a low phosphorous diet. I (Dr. Jeannie) do NOT advocate the use of prescription kidney formula diets—these diets are formulated with poor quality, low protein content that I believe only taxes the kidneys more as well as effecting the digestive system and pancreas to add to the dog’s illness. I believe a raw, species specific diet is far superior.

Do protein diets or even “high” protein diets causes renal failure? No.

In dogs, studies have been done where they have removed 7/8 of the renal mass and then placed them on diets of various protein level and quality. Dietary protein had no effect on the development of renal failure. In cats similar studies suggest that dietary protein level is not associated with renal failure.Because by-products of protein digestion are the main toxins that need to be excreted by the kidneys, an obvious assumption might be that all one needs to do is to cut out the protein in the diet and the kidneys wouldn’t have any more hard work to do. . . . There is significant evidence, however, that the daily protein requirements actually increase slightly for dogs in chronic renal failure. Therefore, severely restricting the protein for such a dog is likely to result in protein malnutrition, in spite of the fact that the levels of blood urea nitrogen, or BUN (the primary by-product of protein metabolism) would be correspondingly lower.

It has become the opinion of scientists that… ‘diets that are low in potassium can cause renal failure’.

In general, Commercial pet food diets are of poor quality protein and poorly formulated and may have led to the development of renal disease.

“During developing renal insufficiency the phosphate content of the diet may be important. High phosphate levels may lead to worsening renal failure. Many diets today, especially for cats, are artificially acidified to help reduce the risk of FUS (or FLUTD as it is now known) However, this may in reality actually cause increased loss of potassium in the urine and promote potassium depletion. Currently these problems (high phosphate and acidification) are being investigated in cats to see how important they are to the development of renal failure. But we do suspect that this is the major cause of early kidney disease in animals today.” Dogs with kidney problems by Dr. Lucy Pinkston, D.V.M.

If Your Pet Has Kidney Stones – Click HERE for Naturopathic Approach to  Kidney and Bladder Stones

Other important factors in dealing with Kidney Dis-ease naturally

Exercise of some kind is vitally important to keep all the body’s systems functioning. If your dog is in later stages of disease or can really no longer walk on its own, massage and physical therapy can help flush the circulatory systems.

Water -Fresh – unpolluted – water is acknowledged by all as being extremely important for kidney patients. But most vets will just say, “Give plenty of fresh water.” Friends, fresh from the tap, chemical-contaminated water might keep your pet from being dehydrated right now, but it definitely isn’t healing – only adding to the toxin load already causing problems. Please give your pet filtered or purified water just as you would for yourself!  I have personally found that even raw fed dogs will drink a little more water when they have access to awater fountian“.


Species Specific Probiotics – (Soil Based are the most appropriate and fast acting for our carnivore companions)

Research has confirmed that good or “friendly” bacteria has the ability to metabolize oxalates and prevent crystal and stone formation.


There is good research showing that CoQ 10 can help bring down creatinine levels.

CoQ10 was studied in a small pilot study involving 21 human patients with chronic renal failure. Researchers administered CoQ10 to 11 of the subjects while 10 received a placebo capsule. To be included in the study patients had to have a creatinine level of 5 mg/dl or above. After 4 weeks, the subjects receiving CoQ10 had significant decreases in serum creatinine and urea while creatinine clearance significantly increased. At the end of the 4 week study the number of patients on dialysis was significantly less in the CoQ10 group. 36.2% of the patients in the CoQ10 group were on dialysis at the end of the study while 90.0% of the placebo group was on dialysis at the end of the study.

Conclusions: Treatment with co enzyme Q10 reduces serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen and increases creatinine clearance and urine output in patients with chronic renal failure.

*NOTE: The highest levels of CoQ10 are found in animal products – not in man made, synthetic supplements or vegetables.  It is found naturally occuring in Pork, Beef, Chicken and Fatty Fish with pork and beef heart, liver and kidney being the highest.

Balance Magnesium and Phosphorus

In Renal Failure, potassium can not be absorbed efficiently in the presence of a magnesium deficiency probably at least partly because the body cells can not absorb potassium [Ryan, p100] (or at this site) and magnesium tends to be correlated with potassium intake.

Another thing to think about with kidney disease and feeding a perxcripiton kibble is too much phosphorus in the diet

When it comes to feding a RAW species specific diet, there is quite a bit of phosphorus in bone, however, it should not be removed entirely from the carnivore’s diet. Continue feeding good quality raw meaty bones in either a whole prey diet or prey model (sometimes called franken-prey) diet unless the dog is in the final stages.

If your pet is in the later stages of renal failure, I would just feed more meaty bones such as poultry thighs and breasts and cut back on or totally avoid feeding the backs, legs, necks and wings. I would avoid feeding beef, venison or pork ribs as well. You may even want to substitute egg shells for calcum and avoid feeding any bones all together if your dog (or cat) is in advanced or final stages of kidney failure. Just remember natural balance over time.

Below are the calcium and phosphorus percentages of a few animal parts for your information and to help choose the parts you want to avoid or add to the diet of your pet with kidney:

Beef, whole Calcium (%) 0.07 Phosphorus (%)0.2 Moisture (%)65.5 Protein (%) 19.6 Fat (%)12.2
Chicken Breast Calcium (%) 0.01 Phosphorus (%) 0.17 Moisture (%)69.5 Protein (%)20.9 Fat (%) 9.3
Chicken Backs Calcium (%) 0.48 Phosphorus (%)0.4 Moisture (%) 60.7 Protein (%)12.6 Fat (%) 24.4
Chicken Wings Calcium (%) 0.87 Phosphorus (%) 0.78 Moisture (%) 64.8 Protein (%) 17.2 Fat (%)12
Turkey Necks Calcium (%)0.69 Phosphorus (%)0.73 Moisture (%) 62.5 Protein (%) 12.4 Fat (%) 19.9
Beef Bonemeal Calcium (%) 30.6 Phosphorus (%) 11.3
Egg Shell Powder Calcium (%) 38.1
Dicalcium Calcium (%) 29.4 Phosphorus (%) 23


Calcium recommendations for animals with chronic kidney disease (CKD) or renal failure are different from those for the general population. Kidney disease causes imbalances in bone metabolism and increases the risk of a type of bone disease called renal osteodystrophy. In addition, these imbalances can cause calcium to deposit in the blood vessels and contribute to heart disease.

If you decide to use a calcium supplement to replace bones in the diet, it is always best to use calcium from a whole food source such as pasture raised, dried and ground egg shells. Pets Friend makes a great product called – Eggshellent Calcium , this is a far better choice than using synthetic calcium supplements and is easy to add to your pet’s food.

Calcium acts as a phosphorus binder and in this manner helps the kidneys deal with any phosphorus that is present. Your basic dietary goals should therefore include, moderate to high amounts of fat, high quality protein, low phosphorus and plenty of clean filtered water.

Further, feeding fattier meats will supply calories while reducing the phosphorus levels. Raw fats are processed far more easily by dogs and cats. Cooked fats may cause pancreatitis so should be avoided.

* Magnesium is vital to enzyme activity. It assists in calcium and potassium uptake. A deficiency interferes with the transmission of nerve and muscle impulses, causing irritability and nervousness.

– Supplementing the diet with magnesium helps prevent things like – depression, dizziness, muscle weakness, twitching, heart disease, and high blood pressure, also aids in maintaining the proper pH balance – which can be a common occurrence in kidney patience.

*Special note might be made of the usefulness of essential fatty acid supplementation of Omega 3s (e.g., fish oils). Even mainstream vets are spreading the word a bit about the efficacy of EFAs in supporting the kidneys.

The best and most easily digested and assimilated source of omega3 fatty acids for our pets is Salmon Oil.

Flax seed oil is not broken down and used as well by our canine companions. See article HERE

Brown, S. A., C. A. Brown, W. A. Crowell, J. A. Barsanti, T. Allen, C. Cowell, and D. R. Finco. “Beneficial effects of chronic administration of dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in dogs with renal insufficiency.” J Clin Lab Med 131:447-455 (1998).

In two studies, one from 2000 and the other from 1998, dogs with induced kidney disease showed improvement when they were fed omega-3-rich fish oil supplements, compared to omega-6-rich safflower oil supplements. Results from this model of renal insufficiency in dogs suggest a beneficial effect of fish oil in protecting the kidney, whereas safflower oil hastened the decline of kidney function.

It is always a good idea to consult with a veterinary naturopath or TRUE holistic veterinarian before starting your dog or cat on any new herb or supplement when your pet is dealing with kidney disease.

Since the liver and kidneys are a such a team in de-contaminating the bloodstream, I would certainly think in terms of detoxifying and giving support to the liver as well. While the appropriate raw diet will do a lot for detoxing, you may want to consult with an animal naturopath who has had experience working with dogs and/or cats with kidney disease to learn about any natural remedies such as essential oil, homeopathy or herbs that might be able to be used your individual pet’s detox and/or healing protocol.

And a final word on food: In case of just about any illness, I would strongly suggest using carnivore specific digestive enzymes & probiotics (canine or feline version) for better nutrient assimilation. Powder sprinkled on or mixed into the food is better than a swallowed capsule, if your pet will eat the food (both probiotics and enzymes are pretty tasteless).

Acupuncture can be very helpful for animals with kidney disease. Regular acupuncture will actually help slow the progression of the disease, stimulate the kidneys and boost the overall vitality of a dog or cat.

In kidney disease, the kidneys themselves as well as the nephrons (functional units of the kidney) have a very restricted ability to regenerate. This means that most damage done to the kidneys is not reversable. What is important is to help the functioning nephrons perform at an optimal level.

Most of the time, pet owners are hoping that their pet in renal failure will see their kidney function miraculously improve, kidneys don’t regenerate like the liver does.

While it is possible to see improvement in kidney values,what is most likely to occur is an actual decline in the rate of kidney deterioration. In other words, if your dog’s creatinine level has jumped from 2.4 to 3.4 in a few weeks, naturopathic therapy and lifestyle change may help to only slightly lower or keep the value from rapidly rising to 4.4 in the following weeks. Usually, you will not see a drastic improvement of lower values or normal values although in some rare cases they will drop significantly with time on the natural diet and life style changes made for the dog.(And yes, in case you were wondering…. They do perform kidney transplants on cats and dogs these days.)

While I try to be very informative in my articles, they are general in nature. I therefore encourage you to have a consultation to work with me on tailoring a program specifically for your own dog’s needs. This is particularly imperative in pets with complicated health issues, or if you’ve done a lot of outside reading and have conflicting information

The goal of consultation suggestions is to help the pet to live as close to a normal life as possible, given the kidney disease diagnoses. Since the kidneys do not always heal or regenerate new and functioning tissue, the natural, home prepared diet and supplements can help the healthy nephrons handle the additional burden. Even with kidney failure, you can likely prolong and enhance your pet’s life by being proactive and common-sensical.

A consultation includes a personalized diet and holistic program suggestions that are custom-tailored to your own dog’s individual and personal needs.

* Click HERE to schedule a consultation before you begin any health care program with your dog
The products and information given on these pages is not intended to substitute veterinary diagnosis and treatment, but to educate and empower you with information.
Copyright 2003 -2016 This article is the sole property of Dr Jeanette (Jeannie) Thomason and The Whole Dog. It cannot be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the expressed written consent of the author.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: