Kidney failure (in dogs or cats) is something that I've gotten a few queries about - it's fairly common, and it's devastating. It often accompanies other ailments... But it may be possible to treat, or its severity may be lessened or worsening staved off, with "natural" techniques.
People generally say, "My vet said there's nothing he can do - just make Tiger comfortable and try to prolong his life as much as possible". Okay; and your vet has only mainstream training, right? So this is my first, and very strong, recommendation: Find a veterinarian who knows something (preferably a lot) about natural healing!
At the end of this article, I'll go into how to find one. I'll also suggest a psychosomatic connection (and a whole new approach to healing) to explore. For now, let's look at the kidneys...
And I'd better say this again... I'm
not a health practitioner. I put clues together, and
make information available, and pass on the words of experts
when I can. What follows is largely the first
part: making sense of various clues.
First, have you read about the digestive system in "Understand the Basics - How Bodies Work"? - and the discussion that follows the overview.
You have to "get a clue", so you can get some other clues! (And, possibly, help your pet's health practitioner/s. So many "doctors", of all kinds, wait to be goaded into action by their patients. ...You are in charge of your pet's healing in a very real way.)
"Kidney failure" might mean compromised, overworked kidneys - or it might mean damaged kidneys (i.e., severe, chronic renal failure).
Kidneys can be damaged - irreparably, so the veterinary information says - by a whole slew of environmental poisons and veterinary treatment drugs, and via other disease forces as well (such as kidney infections, diabetes, leptospirosis, cancer, as examples). And kidney problems can be inherited (especially by certain breeds). (By the way, I've read that kidney failure is supposedly easier to treat in cats than in dogs.)
In severe renal failure, hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis may be recommended - though facilities where either is done are slim. More commonly at this stage, pet owners just have to inject fluids into their animals (into the scruff of the neck) to keep them going.
Kidney failure (renal disease - increased
thirst, dehydration, loss of appetite, urination changes,
maybe nausea and pain) is common in elderly pets - systems
do fail as we get older, whoever we are. But the
kidneys are one of the critical factors in eliminating
toxins from the body - and they become less efficient with
age, and with toxin loading. (Which can be a
problem at any age, just like with humans.)
Helping the Kidneys Function
So first, consider what you're loading the animal's body with!
I've gone into various possible toxins in "Healthy Living - What It Is, How to Ensure Your Animals (and You?) Enjoy the Benefits of It". ...Also various "basics" to consider in your pet's environment.
...Like fresh - unpolluted - water. Water is acknowledged by all vets as being extremely important for kidney patients. But most vets will just say, "Give plenty of fresh water." Folks, fresh chemical-contaminated water might keep your pet from dying right now, but it definitely isn't healing. Purify it!
Just keep in mind that anything overtaxing the liver and kidneys is being (especially) detrimental to your pet's health at this time.
As Dr. Pitcairn says in his book Dr. Pitcairn's complete guide to natural health for dogs & cats «- Clicking on this link will take you to book info at Amazon.com (Or click HERE to try Powell's used books] (by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM and Susan Hubble Pitcairn):
"...Chemicals in food (like preservatives, coloring agents and artificial flavoring agents) and in the environment (contaminated water, air and soil) are directly stressful to the kidneys and probably play a role in the development of the condition. In addition, lack of adequate exercise and diminished exposure to natural environments compound the problem of inadequate elimination and a sluggish metabolism."
Exercise of some kind is important to keep all the body's systems functioning. If your pet really can't walk (briskly is to be hoped for), see if it will hold still for being bounced gently on a trampoline (this is very good for flushing the circulatory systems) or, second best, rocking in a rocking chair. (My dogs like "trampolining".)
The skin, playing a part in elimination, also is linked to kidney troubles. More from the Pitcairns: "...Long-term skin irritation and eruption often seem to precede eventual kidney failure in old age. If the skin disorder is repeatedly suppressed with doses of cortisone or related corticosteroid drugs, the relationship seems especially true." (A good reason to rely on a natural healing modality like homeopathy for skin disorders!)
This book, by the way, has recipes for canine and feline "kidney diets", recommended herbs (alfalfa and marsh mallow), homeopathic tissue salts, and natural kidney crisis therapy. I highly recommend making sure it's in your home library.
Food and drink are so basic... And
most commercial pet food has all kinds of crap in it.
Here's an article that elucidates what some of it might be:
Then there are other toxins in the environment. You know some things that are bad: tobacco smoke and exhaust fumes are big ones that come right to mind. If your pets are being exposed to these, see what you can do to limit those stressors. This is taken from "Dr. Mike's" online question-and-answer page with a bunch of discussions on kidney-related issues (http://www.vetinfo.com/dkidney.html):
"Toxins that are known to affect the kidneys: lead, mercury, arsenic (usually arsenicals used to treat heartworms), cadmium, chromium, thallium, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, pesticides, herbicides, solvents, snake or bee venom, possibly mushrooms, vitamin D toxicosis from rodenticides." Look around!
Also from that article is this information on diet for dogs (my italics):
"It is still recommended that a low total protein, but very high quality protein, diet be given to dogs with...chronic renal... The reasoning is that administration of high protein levels doesn't help because they aren't conserved and that there may even be increased damage from the increased protein passing through the kidneys. It is also good to provide a low sodium diet to decrease hypertension which may be damaging the kidneys and low phosphorous since it appears that phosphorous may actually be a major cause of damage in deteriorating kidneys."
This is an article that includes an
extract from the Merck Veterinary Manual on renal failure in
both cats and dogs:
This article, though, is from the holistic
perspective - and takes exception to the commonly held view
that low-protein diets are good for canines and
felines with kidney problems (especially felines, which are
more protein-dependent). It states that research has not
found a typical low-protein diet to be useful for either
cats or dogs. (Of course, even specially-prepared
canned kidney diet food may have some of the same problems
as other commercial pet food.) The raw meat diet
is strongly urged. The authors also list a number of
herbs and homeopathic remedies that might be used to support
renal function - and highly recommends nutritional
For more information on the raw meat and bones diet, see my article Burying the Bones... And Other Aspects of a Raw Canine Diet. (It's information applicable for felines, too.)
Special note might be made of the usefulness of essential fatty acid supplementation (e.g., fish oils or flaxseed oil). Even mainstream vets are spreading the word a bit about the efficacy of EFAs in supporting the kidneys.
I would also see if the animal will take freeze-dried chlorella or other "green food" powder on its food. (I sprinkle a mixture of spirulina and Barley Green over my dogs' dry food, and they like it a lot.) Green foods (another is blue-green algae) are very detoxifying to the blood - which means less work for the kidneys.
Another product that you might consider
adding to your pet's diet is Tahitian Noni Juice. Many
people have found it to be something of a wonder for people
and pets - good for a great many disorders. Its action
is thought to have something to do with allowing a more
complete utilization of nutritive intake - which again would
probably mean less work for the organs. You can read
some testimonials here to get a feel for how far-reaching
the effects of imbibing this juice can be (liver
regeneration is mentioned, for instance):
Whatever special food you feed your renal-compromised pet, you'll want to feed it less, more often, so as not to tax the stressed organ.
I should say organs... Since the liver and kidneys are a such a team in decontaminating the bloodstream, I would certainly think in terms of detoxifying and giving support to the liver as well. Dandelion root and milk thistle are the most readily-available and commonly used liver cleansers, for both people and pets.
And a final word on food: In case of just about any illness, I would strongly suggest using digestive enzymes (canine or feline version) for better nutrient assimilation. Powder sprinkled on or mixed into the food is better than a swallowed capsule, if your pet will eat the food (enzymes are pretty tasteless). You can get it in some health food and pet supply stores, and via vitamin supply companies.
Probiotics should similarly come to mind. Non-lactose-based acidophilus is considered better than the milk-based for this purpose. Multiple types of this sort of "gut critter" is better than just acidophilus. See the information on soil-based microorganisms in Burying the Bones...
(And yes, in case you were
wondering.... They do perform kidney
transplants on cats and dogs these days. Wow.)
How to Locate an "Alternative Vet"
In a bit, I'll share some directories that might help you find a holistic veterinarian near you. But I don't know where you are, of course... and the directories don't cover every place on earth. So here are some tips for getting help via other means...
I mentioned chiropractic, massage, and acupuncture above. Now, there are probably chiropractors, masseurs, and acupuncturists (or accupressurists) somewhere near you. ("Near" is relative, of course! - I live a good few-hours' drive from the nearest health practitioner of any kind.) So...
First, some such practitioners work on animals - even though they might not advertise this. (In fact, some would lose their licenses if they advertised this! - so be aware that any evasiveness about a direct answer might relate to the fact that your state, or whatever, has decreed that only veterinarians can do [chiropractic] on animals. Thanks to the veterinarians' lobby, I presume!)
I went to a pretty mainstream-type chiropractor in California (where, yes, it's illegal for any but vets to treat animals chiropractically). Out of his office walked a co-worker and her dog - ! - which had had successful arthritic alleviation via a series of spinal adjustments. So... I took my stiff dog in, too. (And paid only $10 for a quick adjustment.) Word of mouth, though, might have to be your route to this information if you aren't already a trusted patient there.
Now, that chiropractor might not have known much about treating anyone for internal disorders via the spine. But he might still have been willing to try it by following a chart... And if he were the only natural healer around, I'd ask him to.
Back to the main thesis... You can ask these alternative healing modality practitioners if they'll work on your animal.
You can also ask them if they can refer you to one who will (if they won't) - or, better yet, to a holistic veterinarian. Even to one who they happen to know of who lives far away... Because maybe that vet will know of one nearer to you. (And if s/he doesn't know, maybe s/he'd be willing to call or refer you to someone who might.)
Also... The phonebook! These days, the phone directories of most large-ish cities (and maybe smaller) will have listings that proclaim a veterinarian's alternative treatment modalities. (Other practitioners' too, of course.) Some may only be dabbling - which isn't what you really want. But you can ask about their experience - and you can always ask for a referral to an expert. Someone new to the healing technique will no doubt have studied it recently, and may well have a line to one or more experts - who may be able to refer you more locally.
And any good vet will pass you on to someone else if s/he, or you, feel that's best. Ask your vet - or anybody's vet - for a referral; you never know who they know, or have bumped into, or heard of, professionally. Yep, even non-traditional veterinarians go to mainstream vet conferences.
I didn't mention non-veterinarian homeopaths... Of course, just about any malady is treated with homeopathy. But frankly, I'd want to make sure that a homeopath I consulted about kidney failure in my dog or cat had a lot of experience with animal ailments, and kidney ailments specifically - and that's likely going to mean s/he's a holistic veterinarian. (Remember how kidney failure can be symptomatic of other things? Don't "throw away" your traditional veterinarian, is what I'm saying.) And don't rely on pre-packaged combination remedies for serious ailments!
But there certainly are homeopathic veterinarians, and here's the link to the page on which I list some finding sources for them. (Plus one non-veterinary homeopath who does e-mail consultation and who does have a lot of experience treating animals.)
More directories for holistic veterinary
practitioners can be found here:
Remember... Attend to the basics; bolster the weak points; and add experienced alternative health practitioners to your healing arsenal.
Even with kidney failure, you can
likely prolong and enhance your pet's life by being
proactive and common-sensical.
How the kidneys are central to a nexus of psychosomatically-charged symptoms
It's difficult to explain "the German New Medicine" (GNM) in a few short paragraphs - even a few long pages... and so I strongly recommend that you follow up with perusing the excellent resources at this site: http://LearningGNM.com. We'll get to the kidneys in a moment...
In a few words, "diseases are not, as assumed, the result of malfunctions or malignancies of the organism but rather “significant biological special programs of nature“..., created to assist an individual during a period of emotional and psychological distress. ...Every disease originates from a shock or trauma that catches us completely by surprise. The moment the unexpected conflict occurs, the shock strikes a specific area in the brain, causing a lesion... visible on a brain scan as a set of sharp concentric rings... The brain cells that receive the conflict impact send a biochemical signal to the corresponding body cells causing the growth of a tumor, a meltdown of tissue or functional loss, depending on which brain layer receives the shock." Also, "every disease progresses through two phases: first, a conflict active phase, characterized by emotional stress, cold extremities, a lack of appetite, and sleeplessness; and then, provided we manage to resolve the conflict, a healing phase. This is the period in which the psyche, the brain and the corresponding organ undergo the phase of recovery, an often difficult process marked by fatigue, fever, inflammation, infection, and pain."
There is so
much more utterly fascinating information to delve into on
this site (about kidneys and almost anything else you can be
wondering about)... But for now, I encourage you to
read this short article about a dog suffering from a
separation conflict, and how his kidney (and hair loss, and
paralysis, and disorientation, and eye) troubles vanished
when the conflict
that "existence conflicts" are also instigators of kidney
problems, which this human case illustrates: