An Integrative Approach to Kidney Disease

There are two forms of kidney disease, acute and chronic. Acute kidney disease means that it happens suddenly, and is many times due to health issues elsewhere in the body, like dehyration, infections, or toxins that are carried by the blood to the kidneys. Chronic renal disease is the result of a slow degeneration of the kidney and often becomes symptomatic when more than 75% of kidney function is lost. As a result, we see the common signs of increased thirst and urination, weight loss, and nausea. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a very common problem in pets– especially cats–and can in turn cause other health issues like high blood pressure, eye, and heart problems.

As kidney disease progresses and the toxins normally excreted by the kidneys increase within the body, they interfere with the bone marrow’s production of new cells and thus can cause anemia and immune suppression. They also can severely irritate the GI tract, causing nausea, diarrhea, and ulceration.

The treatment of kidney disease involves three different principles– first, treat any health issue (eg bad teeth or a tumor) which could be causing the kidney disease; secondly, support kidney function, and third minimize the secondary effects of anemia, immune suppression, and GI irritation.


  • protein should be restricted but of very high biologic value
  • phosphorus should be restricted to minimize GI irritation
  • sodium should be restricted to minimize resultant high blood pressure.

There are four widely used prescription diets for kidney patients, either dogs or cats: Hill’s Prescription, Royal Canin, Purina, and Iams. We also have recipes for home-cooked meals if you’d like.


  • ACE inhibitors (benazapril, enalapril) to support kidney function and minimize high blood pressure.
  • Anti-nausea drugs like famotidine and cimetidine
  • Oral phosphorus binders to help prevent P from being absorbed from the gut.
  • Fluids and diuretics like Lasix to help increase urine flow.
  • Pentoxyfilline is a drug recently recognized to improve blood flow to the kidneys and minimize scar tissue formation, without noted side effects. Do your research and talk to your vet– it may really help your pet


It is important to understand that the kidneys are a primary receptacle for the body’s metabolic wastes. Thus, our goal is to both reduce the overall amount of toxins in the body with appropriate diet and supplements, but also to make sure that the other pathways of toxin excretion — the liver, lungs, and skin– are maximized.


  1. Omega Fatty Acids**: given at 500 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids per 25 lb body wt, once a day.
  2. Antioxidants
    • Alpha Lipoic Acid 20 mg per 10 lb of body weight daily
    • Quercetin: 50 mg per 10 lb of body weight daily
    • Vitamin E: 8 IU per lb of body weight daily
  3. Pyridoxyl 5 Phosphate (Vit B6)**
  4. Arginine 50 mg per 10 lb of body weight daily
  5. Vitamin B12 in cases of anemia**
  6. Milk thistle for liver and immune support
  7. Cordyceps mushroom to improve kidney function and immune support**
  8. Curcumin to reduce inflammation and scarring:10 mg per lb body weight once a day
  9. C0enzymeQ10 to reduce blood pressure and maintain energy;2.5 mg per lb. body weight once a day

(The ubiquinol form is more potent than the ubiquinone form, especially in older pets)

** These ingredients, along with Astragalus and nettle below, are all contained in one pill.


  1. Astragalus**–Decreases the amount of protein present in the urine (Hui 1963). It has been shown to decrease blood pressure in dogs and cats, and has been shown to improve kidney function in humans with glomerulonephritis (Zhi 1987)
  2. Atractylodes (Bai zhu)** Protects the kidneys, and counteracts anemia by stimulating the bone marrow.
  3. Codonopsis (Dang gui)** Treats anemia and reduces blood pressure.
  4. Ginger (Sheng jiang)**: Peach pit (Tao ren), and Red peony (Chi shao): Inhibit thrombus formation
  5. Rhubarb (Da huang)** Shown to decrease BUN and creatinine levels in humans ( Li Shou 1994).
  6. White peony (Bai shao):**
  7. Nettle

** An intimidating list, until you learn that all of these herbs are contained in one pill.


(reprinted from Integrating Complementary Medicine into Veterinary Practice, Goldstein et al.2008)

We should always search for distant causes of the reactions noted because often the kidney is involved in “secondhand” homotoxicoses, where homotoxins arrive from other areas and damage the delicate renal tissues. Homotoxins may be ingested or absorbed through various epithelial surfaces (drugs, heavy metals, pathologic bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.). They may also be generated within the organism at a distant site, such as in tooth abscesses, chronic periodontal disease, and tumors. Therefore, in considering how best to help the kidney, one needs to tend to the health of the immune system, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory system, skin, and particularly the liver.

A comprehensive list of potential homotoxins that may help pets with kidney disease includes…

  • Apis compositum: Treats acute and chronic glomerulonephritis and nephrosis. .
  • Apis homaccord: Used for renal edema and proteinuria.
  • Berberis homaccord: Treats inflammation of bile ducts and urogenital tract (Heel 2003).
  • BHI-Kidney: Used for renal pain, dysfunction and renal colic, hematuria, and albuminuria.
  • Echinacea compositum: Stimulates the immune system
  • Galium-Heel: Treats proteinuria, provides cellular detoxification and drainage.
  • Lymphomyosot: Used for lymph drainage and tubular swelling.
  • Reneel: Treats urinary passage inflammation, particularly in acute phases, and is used to detoxify
  • Solidago compositum: Provides drainage and support or urogenital tissues
  • Traumeel S: Used for hematuria and bladder inflammation