A positive approach combined with proven treatment options is key in managing the pain of kidney disease in dogs. Treatment options can improve a dog’s lifestyle while minimising the pain and discomfort associated with renal inadequacy. The rate of progression of kidney disease in dogs is unpredictable. However, many dogs live comfortably based on their ability to tolerate treatment through diet and the administration of fluids formulated to flush the kidneys of toxins.
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Dietary Role in Kidney Disease
According to veterinarian David Polvin at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota, diet therapy with commercial renal food has been shown to reduce the painful vomiting and diarrhoea associated with kidney disease in dogs. A renal diet can also significantly increase the life expectancy of dogs diagnosed with kidney disease. Canines with kidney disease often lose their appetite as their body attempts to compensate for the pain of an upset stomach. A low-protein renal diet will greatly improve a dog's appetite because lower amounts of protein reduce the work the kidneys must do to relieve toxins from the body.
Low Protein and Low Phosphorus Diets
Research published in the Merck Veterinary Manual suggests that a diet low in protein and phosphorus will give the kidneys a much-needed break and will reduce a dog's pain from nausea. Even dogs with a slower progression of kidney disease often have poor appetites and suffer chronic vomiting, which becomes painful and more frequent as the disease escalates. Additionally, the eventual painful cramping of hunger exacerbates the vicious cycle when a dog must finally succumb to an unsatisfied appetite through the instinctual need to eat.
In many cases, pet owners unwittingly attempt to encourage their dog's appetite with the very proteins that are destroying the kidneys. Understandably, meat such as chicken or tuna are very appealing to dogs, and when huger reaches an extreme, they will finally eat. The painful cycle starts over again unless the dietary needs of a dog with kidney disease are met with specially formulated food.
The pain of the detrimental eating cycle is significantly reduced through a low-phosphorus and low-protein diet. Merck further suggests offering a generous supply of fresh drinking water to help dilute the amount of toxins concentrated in the kidneys. It's essential for pet owners to remember that dogs with kidney disease do not have the ability to flush toxins from their body as a healthy dog would. Reducing the workload on the kidneys will reduce the pain a dog is experiencing from the disease.
Phosphate Binders (Antacids) Help Reduce Muscle and Joint Pain
Phosphorus normally filters through the kidneys, but begins to show up excessively in the blood of a dog with kidney disease. High phosphate levels can wreak havoc on a dog’s energy level, causing lethargy and joint pain from increased inactivity. Binders are often helpful in boosting energy levels, which in turn help reduce the pain accompanying joint stiffness and muscle atrophy. Drs. Foster and Smith at the Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department of North America suggest using phosphate binders under the careful direction of a veterinarian to improve a dog’s kidney function and energy levels. Phosphate binders use calcium or aluminium hydroxide to bind excess phosphates to a dog’s intestinal wall.
Toxin Flushing Treatments Reduce Painful Symptoms
Veterinarians recommend intravenous flushing of toxins from a dog’s kidneys in order to temporarily restore normal kidney function. The process, called diuresis, also relieves the pain of nausea and vomiting through the use of electrolytes and potassium to flush the kidneys. Veterinarians can administer the treatment intravenously as needed according to a dog’s blood test results. Blood test results for creatinine and BUN (blood urea nitrogen) levels clearly indicate when toxins need to be flushed again.
Toxin Flushing at Home Reduces Prolonged Discomfort
Subcutaneous (under the skin) administration of fluids at home is not as difficult as it might sound. The technique reduces the prolonged discomfort of intravenous needles and can be quickly learnt from a veterinarian. Additionally, home therapy can cut back on the number of times a dog must be stressed by going to the clinic for additional treatments.
Create an Exercise Schedule to Reduce Painful Seizures
Some dogs will experience painful and frightening seizures when toxins build up in the kidneys, causing kidney failure. Pet nutritionist Darleen Rudnick recommends regular exercise for dogs with kidney disease. Rudnick said she believes it improves metabolism and increases elimination efficiency. Exercise also fights muscle atrophy, another side effect of the lethargy that accompanies kidney disease. An active lifestyle will improve agility and stamina while boosting a dog’s emotional well-being. Rudnick further encourages regular exercise to improve liver function, digestive performance and circulation, three things all dogs require to lead a happy life.
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