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. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.