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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Kidney Supplements For Dog Cancer

Updated: December 12th, 2018

Cancer of the kidneys can be very hard, both for you and for your dog.  This is actually a rare cancer, so I hope some information here can help.

Let’s look at this topic.  To understand what happens with cancers of the dog kidney, it is important to understand what the kidneys normally do.

Just for orientation, remember the kidneys are located up against the lower back.  In humans with kidney infection, one of the symptoms is back pain.

People think of the kidneys as the organ that makes urine.  This is correct, the kidneys do indeed produce urine.  Urine rids the body of many different toxins.

Here’s the strange part.  When the kidneys lose some of their function, they actually make dogs urinate more than normal.  This is opposite what one might expect, since the kidneys make urine.

The strange thing about the kidneys is that the active process of these organs (that uses energy) is they form a concentrated urine.  It is this action, the concentration of urine, that is one of the main jobs of the kidneys.  The reason for this process is that the kidneys have to work to prevent dehydration.  They actually filter fluid from blood and put the water contained in that fluid back in the body.

When the kidneys are not doing their job, this means that more water is lost in the urine.  You guessed what happens next: dehydration.  More water in urine, more urine being released, and more dehydration.

When dogs get dehydrated, they feel bad.  They become sluggish and sleepy.  They lose their appetite.  And they can sometimes even act like they have eaten a toxin or a poison.  And this image is not far off the mark, because when kidneys lose function, the toxins they normally would clear out instead build up in the system.

There are a variety of cancers that happen in the dog kidney.  Common ones are lymphoma (lymphosarcoma) and renal carcinoma of different kinds.  There is a kind of kidney cancer that is more common in German Shepherds in some bloodlines.

Okay, so this blog is about kidney supplements to discuss with your vet, so let’s take a look at those.  One catch is that dogs with more severe kidney cancer lose their appetite, and so supplementation can be difficult (appetite stimulants may help here).

One of the most useful kidney supplements I use is called Azodyl. This is a certain type of probiotic.  A probiotic is a beneficial bacteria that can be supplemented in a capsule given by mouth (this is different from a prebiotic, which supplies fuel for the healthy bacteria in the intestine).

The neat thing about these particular bacteria is that they are capable of breaking down the toxins that accumulate in the body when the kidneys are not doing their job. Since the toxins contribute to the bad feelings that happen as a part of kidney cancer (and other types of kidney disease), this supplement may help with life quality and possibly even lifespan.

Some dogs get low potassium as a part of their kidney cancer.  When this happens (it is diagnosed by a blood electrolyte test), a potassium supplement can benefit.

Some dogs benefit with weekly injections of vitamin B.  This may help a little with appetite and energy level.  When excessive body water is lost due to kidney problems, the body also loses water soluble vitamins, and B complex is a central player in this.

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and krill oil have benefit in patients with kidney disease (by the way, you can search for blog topics like this by using the search bar on the right side of this page).

On the herb side, we can occasionally see benefit from rubenol, which is put out by the same company that makes Azodyl (Vetoquinol).  Ginseng can help a little too. Some alternative practitioners use coryceps fungus, which is included in K-9 Immunity product by Aloha Medicinals. I prefer the unflavored capsule formulation.  A little nettle seed may help too, which is included in a supplement called Renal Essentials.

As usual, check with your veterinarian or oncologist to make sure there are no interactions you need to know during your dog’s treatment.

If you would like to know more about supplements, and other strategies that can help your dog’s cancer (including both conventional and alternative), check out The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

I hope this helps,


Dr D





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  1. Suzy T on March 15, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    7 yr old standard poodle with renal cancer. Only symptom is increase in water consumption. Has had CT Scan and needle biopsy to confirm diagnosis. Discovered she has only ONE kidney so surgery is not an option. Oncologist suggests low dose radiation for 10 days along with palladium for 6 mos to a year.
    Have started apro caps.
    Please advise.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on March 19, 2013 at 5:30 pm

      Suzy, I am sorry to hear about your dog. I would like to answer your question, but I need a question to answer…there are too many directions I could go in addressing this comment- let me know, thank you
      Dr D

  2. helen feher on March 28, 2011 at 11:10 am

    My beautiful Golden Retreiver became very sick on Feb 9, 2011. Took him to the vet that evening and ultrasound showed tumor on spleen. Feb 10th he underwent a splenectomy. Tumor was quite large. Diagnosis was the worst kind of cancer. My regular vet said he only probably had a yr to live. Two wks later I then took him to a vet who specializes in oncology for a 2nd opinion. She gave me 3 pills (chemo) CNU to give to him within that week. She said he only had 3 mos to survive. He did not want to eat for a few days but came around but not really himself….full of energy and loving the outdoors. I went back to my vet for blood work within 2 wks and he said it was normal. Advised to give him 3 more chemo pills on March 16. Hunter did not like them, even disguised in meat. I forced them down him. Felt so guilty. He started barfing March 17, 18. I called the vet as I was afraid he would become dehydrated even though I was forcing him to drink water. March 19 (Saturday) I called the vet early a.m. to get advice. He said if he does not eat Sat or Sun bring him in Monday. He did not eat and got very weak. I kept him in as he could hardly walk. Monday we were off to the vet very early and I was told he was severly dehydrated and he had to stay in the hospital & started on IVs. I called Monday evening, he was not any better and his red blood count was quite low and lypace over 900. Tues evening I went to hold him and he was unable to stand. He did not even want water and hardly opened his eyes. Vet just said he was having a hard time of it and with his blood count low & lypace so high. I was upset as I have taken my dogs for over 20 yrs to this vet. Seems he gave up on my dog. I loved my dog so much and stuck with the cancer diet. I decided to bring my dog home the next day as he needed my attention and to be around his surroundings if anything would happen. The vet sent me home with pain meds. At 2:30 a.m. Thursday, March 24 my dog has a horrible long seizure. It was so pitiful to see him suffering. He passed away a little after 3:00 a.m. I am so depressed that he is gone. I feel guilty that I pushed the chemo pills down him. Seems that just made him weaker. Plus not eating for one week and becoming severely dehydrated and in the vet hospital for those 3 days he was just miserable. If you can just tell me why he went so fast (within 6 wks) or if the vet could have done or gave him something in his IV to get his red blood count up and lypace lowered. I just feel so guilty that I could have done more or the vet could have done more. Do you think the cancer was in his blood system (septic) as in humans? Hunter was only 9 yrs old.

    • DemianDressler on April 6, 2011 at 8:46 pm

      Dear Helen,
      I will write a post just for you.
      Dr D

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