Sources for this article include multiple publications by holistic veterinarians Dr. Judy Morgan, Dr. Barbara Royal and Dr. Peter Dobias, as well as ShallowFord Veterinary Clinic
In my practice, I support animals with kidney disease from time to time, but when I had three cats with kidney disease in a week, it inspired me to dig further into options for both prevention and support. I follow a number of holistic veterinarians and reviewed a number of kidney related articles to best support my clients, one of whom is new and I have worked with in the past that I adore.
Dogs, as well as cats suffer from kidney disease; however, it is much more common in cats. Cats start their lives with a disadvantage as compared to dogs because they have about half the nephrons (functional units of the kidneys) than dogs and have fewer to spare. Cats start out with about 200,000 nephrons in each kidney. dogs have about 400,000 per kidney. Additionally, cats tend to be more dehydrated than dogs, often with insufficient water intake. This puts a load on the kidneys.
In many animals with chronic kidney disease, the exact cause is unknown. However certain risk factors can predispose your cat or dog to develop CKD. For dogs, it can be hereditary as well. The list below is from Dr. Judy’s publications:
- Congenital – This means that the animal was born with a defect in the kidneys or the renal system.
- Multiple kidney/urinary tract infections
- Urinary tract obstructions
- Exposure to toxins – heavy metals, certain antibiotics, NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) and the load that the chemicals in tap water place on the kidneys.
- Diseases such as FIV, feline leukemia, lupus, or diabetes
- Breed – Persians, Maine Coons, and Abyssinians, German Shepherds, Bull Terriers and English Cocker Spaniels among others have been known to develop CKD at higher rates.
And according to Doctor Peter Tobias, “Over the years, I have observed that the health of the kidneys depends on how healthy your dog’s spine is especially in the area of the third lumbar vertebra. This tightness of muscles and decreased energy flow in the area affects the kidneys. Back issues such as muscle spasm, injury, and stress compromise the kidneys greatly.
Universally, the holistic vets I follow do not recommend a low protein diet for all animals with kidney disease, although recommended protein content differs with the stage of disease.
Low protein diets usually lead to progressive weight loss and deterioration while veterinarians are still being taught that this weight loss is due to the kidney disease itself which is not true. After more than thirty years of practice, I have no doubt that this weight loss is the result of protein starvation and denying the kidney disease patient essential nutrients. This will severely hinder the body’s ability to cope with kidney disease and lead to faster disease progression.”
Using chiropractic, osteopathy or acupuncture or other methods to support spinal health can also be helpful. From an energetic standpoint, urinary tract issues are all about fear and two of the three cats I saw this week have deep histories of anxiety.
General Recommendations for supporting Kidney health are as follows, according to Barbara Royal, DVM, CVA. Note: I have summarized the recommendations.
Prioritize hydration and circulation
Providing proper fluid and electrolyte balance is key to supporting the health of the kidneys. In most cases, hydration can be improved with moisture-appropriate fresh foods and broths. Heat processed, dry kibble foods require that the body provide fluid to properly digest, move and absorb the nutrients.
A full water bowl is important but we can also increase consumption of basic fluids by using meat broths. Animals will drink a more of a natural and nutritious liquid if it tastes delicious.
Certain ingredients promote healthy circulation and help clear impurities. For instance, light doses of dandelion root and Rehmanniae radix have been helpful to support circulation in the kidneys.
Feed appropriate food
Protein: Many people believe that a low-protein diet can prevent kidney disease, but research has not fully proven this. This makes sense, since dogs and cats rely on proteins for their healthy bodily functions. Because most commercial kibble dog and cat diets are typically very low in protein (most average less than 30% protein) and are too high in inflammatory carbs (typically over 40% carbs), limiting the protein even further can cause more harm than good.
Decrease digestible carbohydrates, which increase insulin and inflammation in the body. Provide natural herbs that have been shown to balance immune responses and do not damage kidneys: Gingko biloba, Rehmanniae radix, Omega-3 FA, inositol, green tea extracts, turmeric, etc. Taurine has been shown to have possible cytoprotective effects in the kidney cells.
Keep micronutrients in balance
Talk to your vet or animal nutritionist to ensure that all micronutrients remain in balance, avoid over-supplementing with vitamins and minerals that the kidney must process, and specifically ensure dietary phosphorus is limited or bound. B vitamins may be depleted in animals with kidney disease, so periodic injections of B12 (which can be difficult to absorb orally) and supplementing with food sources like brewer’s yeast for other B vitamins have long been used to support these patients.
Support and Balance the Microbiome
Oral probiotic supplements, unpasteurized goat milk, or tripe can be added to your animal’s diet to help promote the health of the kidneys.
Additionally, Julie Anne Lee, homeopath and founder of Adored Beast Apothecary recommends Intravenous fluids to help with dehydration and possible electrolyte imbalance. She also recommends that clients learn to do sub q fluids at home!
Holistic products to support kidney and bladder health that my clients have found helpful include the following:
Pet Well Being, Kidney Support Gold
I have clients that have experienced profound results using this product, in addition to the recommendations of their veterinarians.
Adored Beast Apothecary, Easy Peesy Protocol
Since bladder and kidney health are so closely related, folks have found this one helpful as well. Certainly, ensuring robust bladder health has implications for prevention as well.