Advice for caring for dogs with renal disease

Having lost Chance in the end to renal failure (she was 16 years old), I am now facing the older dog kidney issue again with Olive. Because Olive was diagnosed early, we have been able to slow the progression, and because of this, I want to share with others who may be going through the same fear and stress with a cat or dog with kidney disease.

Every animal is different, but I share with you what has greatly helped Olive and given her quality of life.

First of all: if you see your animal companion drinking more water, get him or her tested. This was my clue with Olive and I was able to get her in and do what is called

Olive showed increased creatinine levels and BUN (but her BUN had always been high). Phophorus level was normal.

Urine tests and further blood tests two months later, confirmed renal disease, as did an ultrasound of her old kidneys. Her creatinine went from 1.2 in the early test, to 2.1 two months later. If it doubled again in two months, I knew she would be feeling pretty awful and toward the end of her life.

Her symptoms were classic: drinking lots of water, lethargy, very bad breath that was different from the bad breath associated with gum disease. This bad breath I'd never smelled before and seemed to come from deep within her, i.e. the toxins her body was not able to dispell.

Most people dealing with dogs with renal disease understand the kidneys don't regenerate. Cats can live years with the disease but stastitics generally quote 1 - 3 years for dogs. There are always exceptions.

I have always cooked for me dogs, feeding free-range, organic meats, in attempt not only to keep them healthy but also to feed as humanely as possible. I don't believe canines, and certainly felines, can be healthy on a vegan diet.

But for Olive I tried the commercial kidney diets, KD and others. Please, if using these, go slowly. Read the ingredients. Olive did not tolerate the high fat content well and so I stopped. After researching, I decided to feed her top quality protein, free-range, organic chicken, mixed with white rice (brown rice has a higher phosphorous content so opt for white over brown). You can buy vitamins if you are feeding 100% homecooked. Balance-It is one company:

Be careful, however, randomly adding vitamins. I bought a lot of renal specific vitamins for Olive and she didn't like them. Talk to your vet before dumping vitamins onto already struggling kidneys.

I think feeding top quality protein, but just less of it is key. You may hear people say to feed a low protein diet, but keeping weight on an animal and keeping some amount of good protein is very important. Feed meats and veggies with the lowest phosphorus content over high phosphorus foods. Green tripe is a good protein that dogs love and is low in phosphorus. Yes, it is stinky, but you can get over that. The following is for people, listing breads and such, but will give you and idea:  And make certain your dog or cat has been tested. In rare cases, they may not need low phosphorus foods.

I think the greatest thing I did was to see a vet who treated Olive with Chinese herbs. Obviously the herbs need to be sourced from a reliable maker. I found information on the internet about Rehmannia 8. I took the info to my vet. Every animal is different and ever case is different. Based on Olive's history my vet prescirbed Rehmannia 11. I don't know what the difference is, but this combination of herbs turned her story around and gave her quality of life. It takes a couple weeks for the herbs to get into a dog's system. I began to see dramatic changes after about 2 1/2 weeks. Olive's energy increased, she became perky with brighter eyes, and her bad breath went away entirely.


You can find Rehmannia on-line, but I would recommend getting from your vet, as you don't know the quality of herbs bought on-line. At least research well the on-line stores from where you buy it.

Olive still drinks a lot of water. I still watch her phosphorus content. But because dogs and cats with renal disease can lose their appetites, I think it's important to feed them what they want (again quality of life here). Olive was always a picky eater but she loves her free-range chicken, with occasional fish and other meats, like tripe.

It's so important to keep your animal comfortable and unstressed. Whether soft beds, soothing music, fresh water and air, do what is most comforting. Flower essences like Bach or Green Hope Farm can help. When sick, whether with kidney disease or something else, an animal will heal faster if calm, as relaxed as possible and unstressed. They know something is not right; they just may not know what. But they want to feel like they used to, strong and vital. A holistic vet recommended the two Bach remedies Oak and Olive for Olive. The animal's human can take them too along side.

Acupuncture can help, as it gets the energy moving. Olive has never been too keen on the needles, but after a few sessions her mood improved.

Azodyl is often recommended; this is merely a probiotic. Anything you can do to boost nutrition is good. And always plenty of water.

For end stages renal failure there are many drugs that help, and fluids to help flush out toxins. Chance was on drugs and fluids at the end of her life and she had high quality life, retaining her appetite and interest in her surroundings, going on short walks and sleeping well right to the very end.

Olive is doing really, really well. She hunts and runs every morning, sleeps hard and has a good appetite once again. Her numbers have not lessened, but they've not doubled either. They've plateaued and that is what we're aiming for: quality of life for as long as we can.

I hope her information helps others going through the same thing.

Olive today, happy with her toy