By Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte, Holistic Veterinarian
Your pet’s kidneys are really important. They perform several critically important functions in the body.
- Filter the blood and excrete wastes - primarily urea + creatinine, but also end products of hemoglobin metabolism, hormone metabolites, toxins that have been made water soluble by processes in the liver, industrial toxins, heavy metals, and nutrients of food materials taken in in excess (such as salt, Vitamin C, Vitamin B, and others).
- Remove drugs from the body
- Balance the amount of fluids in the body
- Release hormones that regulate blood pressure
- Produce an active form of vitamin D (essential for bone health)
- Control the production of red blood cells
Your pet's kidneys have a large excess capacity. This is both good and bad. It’s good because there is a large functional reserve, so if there is damage to your pet’s kidneys, they will still be able to function. It’s bad because you won't see any measurable changes in blood tests to tell there is a problem until about 65-70% of the kidney tissue function is lost. In some cases, kidneys can regenerate - more so with acute injury than with chronic disease.
Early signs will be picked up in blood tests (so it’s a good idea to have yearly blood tests, especially once pets are older than 3-4 years) - elevated SDMA is an early sign, once urea and creatinine levels start to rise, the kidneys are losing function.
Symptoms of kidney disease include drinking and urinating more than usual (and in some cases drinking less), loss of vitality, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, mouth ulcers, and bad breath.
Prevention of kidney damage is the key!
Because you won't know there is a problem until after most of the damage is done, you want to do everything in your power to be proactive!
Here's what I advise.
Feed a high-quality, fresh, whole-foods diet- preferably raw.
The diet needs to be rich in bio-available nutrients. I prefer a BARF (biologically appropriate raw food/bones and raw food) type diet, though home cooked is fine too if that works better for you or your pets. Avoid food (and scraps) that are high in fat.
Keep your pet's teeth clean and healthy!
Dental disease can actively harm the kidneys. Don't allow any tartar build-up or inflammation of the gums. A yearly dental (with dental x-rays) under general anaesthetic is the gold standard here. And you may be able to avoid the need for that with regular (1-2 times a week) size-appropriate meaty bones, as these are the best teeth cleaners available.
Make sure your pets are well-hydrated!
This one is super-important. If you have pets who don't drink much water, you may need to add extra water to their food or supplement their diet with bone broths. Clean, filtered water is ideal.
Avoid processed foods like the plague (especially kibbles!).
Processed food is more toxic, poorly digestible, and frankly awful. Kibble, in particular, is dehydrating, and even more so for cats. Chronic dehydration accelerates damage to the kidneys.
Minimise stress and anxiety in your pets, and in the household/family.
Stress harms the whole body!
Regular appropriate exercise.
And… Monitor your pets, especially as they age.
Watch for changes in appetite, water consumption, urine production, weight loss, depression, lethargy, or any signs of general illness.
An integrative approach to the treatment of kidney disease in pets
If your pet does develop active kidney disease, then there are a few things to do. With milder disease, a totally holistic approach may be enough, sometimes prescription medications will give better outcomes.
All pets with signs of kidney disease should have their blood pressure tested, and if it’s high, this will need to be controlled. Usually, prescription medications will be necessary.
A healthy fresh whole food diet high in moisture and low in phosphorus + salt is a key step. This usually means restricting meat proteins, as they are the main source of phosphorus. But too much protein restriction is also less than helpful.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
These are proven to be beneficial in CKD. Zinzino is the best brand I know, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how to order these.
Human studies have shown that this supplement can help with kidney disease.
Other supplements + vitamins.
B-vitamins can help with stress, and antioxidants such as vitamin C can help. Blueberries are one of the best anti-oxidant supplements you can give your pets. Potassium supplements may be required, more so for cats.
Some research has shown a significant decrease in blood urea and creatinine levels when cats were given probiotics.
Herbal medicines (Western and TCM).
Rehmania is a herbal medicine that I give to all kidney failure patients that I see. Astragalus and dandelion may help too, but any long-term herbal medications should be given under the care of a qualified professional.
Homeopathy, acupuncture, energy healing.
These kinds of interventions increase balance, harmony, and vitality throughout the whole body, and are very supportive. You’ll need a qualified professional to get the best results.
It’s worth exploring all of the more holistic options, especially if the disease is mild. Sometimes that will be enough to do the trick. Sadly, once kidney function is lost, it’s rare to regain it. That is why prevention is such an important focus, and what I strongly recommend.
Kidney disease is a chronic, progressive, degenerative problem. No matter what you do, over time, the problem will tend to worsen. Monitoring regularly with vet visits and blood testing is necessary, especially after overt kidney disease has been diagnosed.
The most important thing of all is a fresh, healthy, whole foods diet, with high-quality ingredients, especially proteins. Avoiding all kinds of toxic insults (unnecessary vaccinations, avoidable tick, flea and heartworm prevention drugs, household toxins, etc) is also wise!
About the Author - Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte.
Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte is a holistic veterinarian, and a world-leading expert in silent pain in pets. Dr Edward is passionate about fresh raw whole foods for dogs. He is the founder of the Whole Energy Body Balance method- a profoundly healing bodywork modality for pet parents and pet wellness professionals to relieve silent pain, anxiety and trauma in pets. Join Dr Edward's free masterclass on silent pain in pets here.
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