The health flow of the kidneys

Promoting the health flow of an animal’s kidneys involves gaining a better understanding of how this organ works, and which forms of sustenance help it thrive.

The different parts of a dog or cat’s body must function well together in order to maintain vibrant health. As veterinarians, we know that each system interlinks and plays a vital role in our patients’ vibrant, active, happy, and hopefully long life.

We can better support animals diagnosed with kidney disease when we have a deeper understanding of which foods, herbs and supplements help this organ and body system thrive.

What are the causes of health for the renal system and specifically the kidneys?

1. Hydration and circulation

Eating: Health practitioners know that providing proper fluid and electrolyte balance is a key part of any kidney protocol.  In most cases, hydration can be improved with moisture-appropriate fresh foods and broths.

Heat processed, dry kibble foods require that the body provide fluid to properly digest, move and absorb the nutrients. Typically after a dry food meal, we see an animal become very thirsty. This thirst means the body feels dehydration from using body fluid for digestion. This dehydration, albeit temporarily, can stress the kidneys.

Foods that maintain natural moisture in their structure are less likely to cause this stressful dehydration as they are digested with the appropriate moisture on a cellular level.

Drinking: Of course a full water bowl is important but we can also increase consumption of basic fluids by using meat broths. Animals will drink more of a natural and nutritious liquid if it tastes delicious. Offering meat broth to a patient with kidney disease provides added balance to oral hydration.

Circulation support: Use ingredients that promote healthy circulation and help clear impurities like N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC); light doses of dandelion root and Rehmanniae radix have also been helpful to support circulation in the kidneys.

2. Appropriate food

Protein: Research has not fully proven the benefit of a low protein diet to prevent or preserve kidney function in most cases of kidney disease. This makes sense as we are feeding carnivores that rely on proteins for their healthy bodily functions. Because most commercial kibble dog and cat diets are typically very low in protein (most average less than 30% protein) and are too high in inflammatory carbs (typically over 40% carbs), limiting the protein even further can cause more harm than good. High quality digestible dietary protein also helps turn on healthy dormant kidney tubules and supports the immune system.

3. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support

Inflammation is implicated in many disease processes, and kidney disease is no exception. In kidney disease, we need to avoid NSAIDS to fight inflammation without damage to the kidneys. But we have many options.

  • Decrease digestible carbohydrates, which increase insulin and inflammation in the body.
  • Provide natural herbs that have been shown to balance immune responses and do not damage kidneys: Gingko biloba, Rehmanniae radix, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, inositol, green tea extracts, turmeric, etc.
  • Taurine has been shown to have possible cytoprotective effects in the kidney cells.

4. Micronutrients

Making sure that all micronutrients are in balance, avoiding over-supplementing with vitamins and minerals that the kidney must process, and specifically ensuring dietary phosphorus is limited or bound. Mild food-based phosphorus binding substances like chitin may help in early kidney disease. B vitamins may be depleted in animals with kidney disease, so periodic injections of B12 (which can be difficult to absorb orally) and also supplementing with food sources like brewer’s yeast for other B vitamins have long been used to support these patients.

5. Microbiome

Probiotics can be essential for healthy management of the systemic byproducts of kidney disease. Oral probiotic supplements, unpasteurized goat milk, or tripe can be useful additions to any patient with kidney disease.

NOW® Pets Kidney Support is made with botanicals, antioxidants, and taurine to help the practitioner safely offer supplement combinations that can make a difference for their patients.

Kidney support is often as simple as introducing a few small changes or additions to an animal’s diet. The key is to equip yourself – and your clients – with the right knowledge and nutritional products!


Dr. Barbara Royal, is a Chicago veterinarian, IVAS certified acupuncturist, author and lecturer with extensive experience in veterinary care, including zoo, marine and wildlife animals, nutrition, acupuncture, emergency medicine, pathology, conventional practices, herbal remedies, physical rehabilitation techniques and alternative treatments. Dr. Royal was past president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association ( Author of The Royal Treatment, A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets, she is also is the founder and owner of The Royal Treatment Veterinary Center in Chicago.


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