Preventing Kidney Disease in Dogs and Cats

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What would you guess is the top medical condition afflicting cats in the United States?  Lower urinary tract disease is one of the top ranked medical conditions according to Veterinary Pet Insurance, and renal failure comes in a very close second.

When we make a commitment to bring a pet animal into our lives, it’s a natural expectation that a long enjoyable pet’s life will be shared harmoniously.  It might not always be obvious, but the events of every single day influence the length of our pet’s lifespan.

Start Prevention Early

One of the most common fatal diseases of our companion animals can be delayed in onset or avoided all together if we start preventative measures at an early age.  Both dogs and cats can suffer from kidney disease as they grow older.  As a functional organ, kidneys produce fluid (urine) and must have adequate moisture to thrive. An ample blood supply must be maintained for the kidney to perform this vital function.

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Adequate kidney (renal) function is necessary to purify the blood of toxins that are produced from normal metabolism.  Every organ in the body—from brain to toes—depends on clean blood to bring oxygen and nutrients to support their work.  When a patient suffers from decreased renal function, decreased appetite, nausea, mouth ulcers, inadequate oxygenation and organ death result.  In the end, renal failure in dogs and cats is fatal.


In conventional medical care, a physical examination, urine and blood tests (with or without x-rays, ultrasound and biopsy) are important to reach a proper diagnosis.  In integrative medicine, we use physical tests as well as pulse and tongue diagnosis to determine the nature of a problem.

Often, when a client brings a cat to our hospital with the complaint that the appetite has changed, we learn that dry cat kibble is the only food being offered.  Sometimes the peculiar odor coming from the cat’s mouth is a big clue.  Uremic halitosis smells faintly like urine because of the back up of waste products in the patient’s blood stream.  Can you imagine how the pet feels when it’s that sick?

Traditional Chinese veterinary medical principles allow us to diagnose the root causes of kidney disease – whether it be kidney Qi deficiency, Kidney Yang deficiency, Kidney Yin deficiency or in congenital disease, kidney Jing deficiency.  Multiple sub- variations of these categories can be defined if there are combinations of other physical problems, such as edema (fluid accumulation), Bony Bi (a type of arthritis), infertility, urinary incontinence, false heat cycles and weak bones.


Once we have a diagnosis, treatment can begin.  With Integrative modalities we combine acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines with standard Western therapy of appropriate fluid therapy (IV or subcutaneous), special diet and antibiotics if appropriate.  Although kidney tissue does not regenerate like some other organs (especially liver), making changes to a dog’s or a cat’s lifestyle can make a tremendous difference in quality of life.

Acupuncture can bring energy and pain relief in a case of chronic renal disease by stimulating nerves to produce pain relieving chemicals, increase circulation and decrease inflammation.  Acupuncture therapy taps into the body’s natural energy sources (Qi and Jing). There’s nothing magical or mystical about the action of stimulating specific acupuncture loci.  It’s hard science.  Each site has a blood vessel, a lymphatic vessel and a nerve, which receive stimulation from acupuncture needles. Injections of saline or vitamins, electrical energy or laser light application can also stimulate these sites. The body produces endorphins and other natural chemical messengers that cause responses at the acupuncture site as well as the in the appropriate internal organ and in the brain.

Because acupuncture works with the body’s internal resources, it doesn’t work fast.  Repeat sessions are necessary to permit the body to restore and heal at its own rate.


Prevention is always our primary goal in any disease process.  Feeding moist meals, real vegetables, and cooked meats are the healthiest ways to feed dogs.  Cats are true carnivores so meats and fish (and eggs) are more enticing for the feline, but sneaking in small quantities of canned pumpkin, canned squash and cooked sweet potato is worth a try.

I cringe when I hear of our pets being given only dry, processed foods with hardly a break in texture or content.  Dry cat foods especially, can become addictive to cats such that when they most need the moisture in the diet (i.e. geriatric chronic renal failure) they absolutely refuse to eat anything but the dry food.

More often than not clients bring pets into our office with symptoms that indicate the kidneys have been diseased for a while.  Pets (especially cats) hide their illness well and sometimes those symptoms are subtle and mistakenly attributed to seasonal or dietary changes when the change is actually coming from within.  Semi-annual examinations by your veterinarian are extremely helpful in the early discovery of these symptoms and the prompt treatment of diseases. Yearly diagnostic blood panels (which check kidney and other organ functions) once the pet is over 7 years old is imperative for early diagnosis.  It takes both the diligent eye of the pet owner as well as the expertise of the veterinarian to catch kidney problems before they become life threatening. Once diagnosed, a combination of traditional medications, holistic therapy, increased fluid intake, and proper dietary changes can extend the quality of the lives of our treasured companions.

Feature Photo Copyright: vvvita / 123RF Stock Photo

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