The kidneys have many functions but very importantly they filter out waste products in the blood. These waste products are filtered by the kidneys and then excreted in urine.
Kidney failure in animals can be caused by the ingesting toxins, including antifreeze, certain medications, tainted foods, etc. This is very dangerous and would have specific treatment at your emergency vet. But the most common threat is Chronic Kidney Disease which is one of the most common diseases that affect aging pets.
Watch for the warning signs:
The most common first sign of the kidneys struggling are when your pet has increased drinking and urination. This is caused because the body is sending more blood flow through the kidneys in an attempt to increase filtration. Unfortunately, less and less of the metabolic toxins are being removed each time. This results in more urination. This will cause your pet to drink more to avoid dehydration. Sadly, by the time you see this symptom it is likely that your pet has already lost about 2/3 of the functionality of their kidneys which they will not get back. Other warning signs of likely more advanced disease are:
- Loss or decreased appetite
- Chemical odor of breath
- Weight loss
- Blood in urine
- Mouth ulcers or pale gums
Your vet will diagnose chronic kidney disease by analyzing your pet’s urine and blood. In cats they may do X-rays, an ultrasound may be needed (an image of your cat’s insides), or biopsy (tissue sample) might also be needed to make a diagnosis.
In general terms the information will help to determine how compromised functionality is. For instance, a dog with marginal kidney function may only have irregularities in their urine. A dog with more advanced disease will also have elevated BUN and CREA in their blood work. These additional signs may mean their kidney function is as little at 25%. And in more severe cases you’ll see elevated Phosphorus levels as well and this could mean that they may be functioning with only 10-15%.
How do you treat Chronic Kidney Disease?
The following will detail the content of what a kidney impaired pet should eat. Unfortunately it is often difficult to get your pet with CKD to eat because they suffer from nausea. If this is the case a natural remedy that might help is to give them raw apple cider vinegar or dried ginger root. For animals up to 20 pounds you just need a 1/4 teaspoon of vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon up to 40 pounds etc. The powdered ginger root comes in capsules that could be given to larger dogs but for smaller animals open one and take a pinch of the powder. Both can be mixed with a small amount of unsweetened applesauce in a syringe and squirt into their mouth. You can do this up to 3-4 times a day to keep their upset tummy in check.
-Reduced Protein. Less protein means less need for the excretion of protein through the filtration system. So decreased protein will slow the progression of the disease. The recommended percentage of dietary protein will be dropped to as little as 14% but should be under 20%.
-Reduced Phosphorus. Phosphorus is tied to protein, so when you reduce protein it will lower the phosphorus. But the “acceptable range” your vet will probably recommend will be .2-.5%.
-Low Sodium. Recommended sodium will be not more than .3%
-Omega 3 fatty Acids are good. You will want to make sure you have .4-2.5% Omega 3’s in their diet. Omega 3 fatty acids help reduce protein “leaking” through the kidneys. Omega’s are also known to be a natural anti-inflammatory that can reduce stress on the kidney tissue.
-Often wet pet food is a recommended addition because it provides another opportunity to get more fluid into your pet’s system.
The vet may recommend additional support besides diet change.
-There are drugs that can bind excess phosphates in the intestinal tract so that they are not absorbed into the bloodstream. You can even ask your vet about using ground egg shells as a natural phosphate binder.
-A drug can regulate the parathyroid gland and calcium levels. Calcium and phosphorus must remain at a 2:1 ratio in the blood. The increased phosphorus in the blood could stimulate the parathyroid gland to then increase the blood calcium by removing it from the bones. This can then cause brittle bones. Your vet will tell you if this is needed.
-The kidneys produce erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells. When this is not functioning in the kidneys it can result in low red blood cell count causing anemia. There is a synthetic version of this hormone, but it does come with complications and you should be aware of these in advance so speak to your vet.
Home Fluid Therapy
You MUST provide an unlimited supply of fresh water to your pet if they have kidney disease. Fluids are critical to continue flushing toxins through the kidneys. Another way to prevent dehydration might be to give maintenance fluids under your pet’s skin. Your vet can teach you how to inject these at home.
Chronic Kidney Disease is one of the unfortunate side affects of aging in many pets. It is a condition that you must manage closely because it can deteriorate quickly. You must get your pet’s blood levels monitored regularly. The goal is to implement everything you can to maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible.
Have you been successful managing your pet’s kidney disease? Tell us how?