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Managing a Pet with Kidney Disease

Renal or kidney disease in pets is very complicated and this is meant to be a simple resource page.  For more detailed information, please check out Information from Washington State University's School of Veterinary Medicine.

Kidney disease can be of several different types - it can be acute (new) or chronic (old) and disease can affect different parts of the renal system.  Bloodwork isn't always very sensitive as there needs to be a lot of damage to affect some of the serum markers like creatinine - when creatinine is outside of the reference range, the animal has lost 75% of renal function.  Another marker, SDMA, is only elevated when 40% of renal function is lost.  Other tests your vet may run to diagnose kidney disease are tests on the urine and also checking blood pressure.

Most animals on Hospice Pet have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).  Some common signs of CKD:

  • Excessive drinking/thirst

  • Excessive urination

  • Vomiting

  • Lack of appetite

  • Lethargy

  • Diarrhea 


1.  Diet: Therapeutic diets that are designed for kidney disease have lower amounts of certain critical nutrients than over-the-counter diets and they can help prolong your pet's life!  The most important of these are reductions in phosphorus, sodium, protein, and the addition of omega-3 fatty acids. There are excellent commercially available diets for kidney failure that you can source through your veterinarian.


When choosing treat options, we look for similar nutrient profiles. This means choosing treats that are not too high in phosphorus, salt, and protein.  For dogs, there are some nice fresh options like: watermelon, green beans, zucchini, apples, baby carrots, blueberries, bananas, broccoli, and carrots.  Please check with your vet to make sure these are appropriate for your dog!

Treats to avoid are anything that is high in phosphorus and protein: most meats, jerky treats, bully sticks, rawhides, pig ears, antlers and real bones.

2. Fluids: Administering subcunateous fluids can really help animals with chronic kidney disease.  This is really easy to do !!!  Your veterinarian or veterinary technician will show you how to do it, make sure you are comfortable, tell you how much fluid your animal needs, and give you everything that you need.  YOU CAN DO THIS!!  This treatment can really help prolong quality of life for animals battling renal disease.  The needle just goes under the skin in a variety of possible locations and many many people who never thought they could do it become experts!!

3. Medications: Some animals may need to go on various medications.  Some examples are drugs that lower blood pressure, raise potassium levels, lower phosphorous levels, promote kidney function, treat anemia, treat gastrointestinal ulcers, and reduce nausea/vomiting may all be a part of therapy.  Your veterinarian may discuss some of these with you.


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