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Supplements Recommended for Dogs with Kidney Disease

See Also:

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian, nor do I have any formal training in any medical field. The information presented here is not meant to replace your vet's advice or prescribed medications, but only to suggest additional options to explore, based on your dog's condition.

Recommended Supplements

If you have trouble getting your dog to take pills, see Giving Pills below for some helpful hints.

Dogs with kidney disease may require a special form of vitamin D, see Calcitriol below. Caution should be used in supplementing with vitamin A, which can build up in cases of chronic renal failure. The beta carotene form of vitamin A is safest, as it will not be converted unless the body needs it. If you're feeding a homemade diet, it's OK to provide minimum daily requirements of vitamins A and D, but don't add them to a commercial diet. Since cod liver oil is high in both vitamins A and D, it should not be given to dogs with kidney problems except in small amounts when feeding a homemade diet. I would give no more than 400 IUs vitamin D and 4,000 IUs vitamin A to a large dog, half that much to a medium-sized dog, and 1/4 that amount to a small dog (even less for tiny dogs).

See Vitamin and Mineral Concerns in Dialysis for a little more information, although it is human oriented and geared to patients on dialysis.

Be very careful about using multi-vitamins, as they may contain phosphorus. Very small amounts are OK, but you don't want to be adding phosphorus if you can help it. Thorne Canine Geriatric Nutrients might be a good choice, as it contain appropriate amounts of vitamins B-complex and E, plus about half the amount of CoQ10 you should add for a dog with kidney problems, and only 12.5 mg phosphorus per capsule (0.5 mg per lb when given at the suggested dosage of one capsuleĀ  per 25 lbs -- note that the analysis shown for this supplement is per 2 capsules). Other possibilities include:

Other supplements may also contain phosphorus. For example, DGP (Dog Gone Pain), used to treat arthritis, has 22 mg phosphorus per tablet. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer and ask.

There are also glandular supplements that can support the kidneys as well, including Renatrophin PMG, Renafood and Canine Renal Support from Standard Process, available at Spinelife.

The herb Hawthorn may be useful for dogs with kidney disease, according to Gregory Tilford, author of Herbs for Pets. He says "When combined with ginkgo biloba (for small capillary circulation) and herbs that improve urinary function, hawthorn may be useful for getting more blood and oxygen into renal arteries and smaller vessels of the kidneys. This, in theory, is thought to slow degeneration of whatever healthy tissue remains in the diseased organs." When supplementing with herbs, I prefer to use tinctures that are made specifically for dogs, so that the dosage will be correct, such as Animal's Apawthecary's Hawthorn Berry, Heart Health and Senior Support.

In general, diuretics are not recommended for dogs with renal failure. However, if your dog is having problems urinating, they could be helpful (it's very important: to check with your vet first in this situation). Marshmallow (the herb) would fall into this category, as well as being soothing to the urinary tract. Watermelon is also a natural diuretic, a good source of potassium, and low in sodium. Parsley, celery and dandelion greens are also natural diuretics. Watermelon tea can also be used.

Note that Essiac is not recommended for renal dogs. See for more info.

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Giving Pills

If your dog doesn't like to take pills, there are many things you can use to wrap the pills in and make them go down easily. The best I've found are Pill Pockets -- the smell is very enticing, and you can pinch off just enough to cover the pill, making each one last a long time (I used to think they were too expensive because I thought you had to use a whole pill pocket each time you gave pills). Note that Pill Pockets are now available in a Duck and Pea Allergy Formula for dogs with food allergies.

Before I knew about Pill Pockets, I started with soft cream cheese, then braunschweiger sausage (similar to liverwurst), then peanut butter. When those stopped working (when she went through a period of inappetence, she often didn't want the same foods again), I found that a number of leftovers work great -- Nattie was particularly fond of crab cakes, shrimp or crab dumplings (dim sum), and potstickers. I've also used mashed potatoes and gravy, peanut sauce (Thai satay), string cheese, and fast food (potato wedges from KFC went over very well). Many of these foods are high in salt, which is not ideal for dogs with kidney disease and so should only be used as a last resort. Meat doesn't work as well, since she tries to bite it and sometimes bites the pill, I find softer food works better. Mini marshmallows are another option. I've also found that first offering a bite with no pill, followed by the bites with pills, and ending with a no-pill bite, works well for us. Note I use as little of the extras as possible, I'm not talking about giving one pill with a whole pot sticker, for example, but making that pot sticker last for several days and a large number of pills. For updated information, see the section on giving pills in my article on Inappetence.

You can also get medications compounded into easy to give, palatable liquids or chewable pills, or even ones that can be absorbed thru the skin, if needed. See these sites for more information:
Pilling Cats: There IS Another Way
Compounding Pharmacies
Compounding Pharmacies -- United States (see bottom of page for Australia and Canada)
Animal Pharmacy

In addition to Pill Pockets described above, another treat designed to hide pills is Medi-Crunch, but these have a hard exterior so you couldn't pinch off pieces to get multiple uses per treat as you can with Pill Pockets.

Another option would be to put bad-tasting pills into capsules for easier consumption. See Spaniel Antics blog post for details.

You can find other helpful tools such as the Pill Crusher/Splitter at Amazon, PetRx and DiscountPetMeds

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Rocky is a Yorkie-Poodle mix who had suffered from digestive problems his whole life. Click on his image to read about the diet his owner finally found to help him.
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This is Ella, my Norwich Terrier.