All mammals have a pair of kidneys located in the abdomen, one either side of the spine and just tucked up under the ribs. Their main functions are to:
Blood, carrying waste products, enters the kidneys through the renal arteries, which branch into smaller and smaller vessels within the kidney. These end as complex networks of capillaries, known as glomeruli, through which the blood is filtered.
The filtered material is collected and, as it passes along to the next stage, water and other vital substances are absorbed back into the bloodstream. This process of reabsorption is vital to good health. Under normal circumstances, some substances are completely reabsorbed, such as glucose, while others, such as urea (a waste product), are completely eliminated. Of all the fluid filtered out, some 99% is reabsorbed and as little as 1% ends up as urine which is passed into the bladder for storage.
The kidneys have a large functional reserve and can lose over 75% of their capacity before any symptoms of kidney disease can be seen. Despite this fact, kidney problems are fairly common in both dogs and cats.
There are basically two common forms of kidney failure:
This is sudden in onset and caused by damage to the kidneys by infection, dehydration, poisoning or haemorrhage.
The build-up of waste products, especially urea, leads to a situation known as uraemia, causing the breath to smell unpleasant. Treatment needs to be carried out promptly to limit damage.
This is more common, with a progressive deterioration of kidney function.
It is important that you consult your vet if you suspect that your animal has kidney problems. The history and clinical signs may often be sufficient to arrive at a diagnosis, but your veterinary surgeon may decide to take blood samples to provide a more accurate picture of your pet’s condition. This will almost certainly involve measuring the levels of blood urea and creatinine. Based on the results, your vet will be able to determine the best course of treatment and to give you a prognosis.
The correct diet is of vital importance in the long-term management of kidney problems. The ideal diet should contain:
If you are unsure what to feed, your own vet is the best source of advice and may be able to provide you with specific prescription foods to help.
A number of drugs can now help with the management of renal problems. Of particular note are those in a group called ACE inhibitors (such as Fortekor), which help reduce blood pressure and so delay the progression of renal disease. Phosphate binders are now also used. These supplements are added to the diet to reduce the level of phosphorus in the blood reducing the health problems associated with raised blood phosphorus levels.
Herbal remedies can be used alongside diet to help deal with kidney disease. The following Denes products are useful:
These two combinations are formulated using medicinal herbal tinctures, to support the function of the kidneys. The cat version has added vegetable glycerine to improve palatability. Both can be easily added to food and contain the following herbs:
HAWTHORN (Crataegus oxycanthoides)
Tones the circulation, improving the blood flow through the kidneys, lowers high blood pressure which can be a problem with cats especially
BARBERRY (Berberis vulgaris)
Strengthens and cleanse the body generally
GOLDEN ROD (Solidago virgauria)
Improves kidney function generally
CLEAVERS (Galium aparine)
A mild diuretic, cleansing the body of toxins
PARSLEY (Petroselinum crispum)
Another diuretic herb, helping flush out toxins from the kidneys
RHUBARB (Rheum palmatum)
May slow the progression of chronic kidney disease
This herbal medicine is based on stinging nettles and can be used alongside Denes Kidney Support. Stinging nettles help by eliminating waste products and can help detoxify the body
This herbal supplement is useful in more severe cases. It is based upon two herbs classed as liver tonics, Dandelion and Milk Thistle. Both help by removing toxins and supporting and stimulating the function of the liver.
This is a herbal supplement that supplies a wide range of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Animals with impaired kidney function normally benefit from extra supplementation. All-in-One Powder+ contains:
Omega 3 essential fatty acids have be shown to help reduce kidney inflammation, to slow the progression of renal disease by reducing blood pressure and by improving blood flow through the kidneys, helping to filter out waste products more effectively.
Homeopathy provides another way of supporting the kidneys. There are two remedies which may help:
Denes Kidney Support, Denes Greenleaf Capsules, Milk Thistle+ Powder, All-in-One+ Powder, Organic Omega 3 Oil and Homeopathic Remedies can be used singly or in combination and are safe to use alongside any conventional treatment that your vet may prescribe.