Order a Dr. Harvey's Trial Bag!

Experience fresh food, firsthand.

Learn More

Fast shipping & 100% satisfaction guaranteed

There are no items in your cart.

your online orders with
SAVE 10%
Learn More
Pet Wellness

What Causes Kidney Failure in Dogs: Prevention and Treatment Options

January 06, 2023 - 5 minute read by The Team at Dr. Harvey's

A dog lying on a couch A dog lying on a couch

If your best friend has been diagnosed with kidney failure and you feel overwhelmed—you’re not alone. The diagnosis of kidney problems becomes more common especially as dogs get older (7 and up), and many pet parents have wondered how they can help their fur babies. Unfortunately we are seeing kidney issues in younger and younger dogs as well, making prevention important from the beginning of your dog’s life.

Dr. Harvey’s is concerned about kidney failure, also known as kidney disease or renal failure. There are two types: acute kidney failure and chronic kidney failure.

Acute kidney failure involves a single instance that causes the kidneys to perform poorly, such as ingesting toxins. Chronic kidney failure is typically more common as a long term concern.

Now, what causes kidney failure in dogs, and what can you do if your companion is diagnosed with kidney failure? Can you treat it? Can you prevent your furry friend from developing it in the first place? We’ll cover all that and more.

Common Causes of Kidney Failure in Dogs

There’s no single cause for kidney failure—it can be caused by:

  1. Age: Unfortunately, kidneys may weaken with age when a processed or high protein diet is fed for many years

  2. Toxins: Certain foods and other substances can cause kidney failure. Ingesting toxins and tick bites can also be a source of toxins.

  3. Injury/Illness: Injuries or illnesses that cause a decrease in blood flow can create kidney concerns.

  4. Poor Diet: a diet made up of dry kibble does not provide enough moisture and nutrition to nourish a dog’s kidneys. Overtime, the lack of moisture can cause chronic kidney issues.

  5. High protein diets that may overwork the kidneys, especially as our pets’ age

  6. Certain medications, oral and topical, can weaken the kidneys


If you’re wondering if kidney failure in dogs is painful, we can tell you they are not feeling well and it’s important to prioritize their comfort. That’s what’s so difficult about kidney failure—its symptoms are very subtle before reaching a critical point, and your companion can have elevated kidney values before it is realized. Symptoms can occur months or even years before being obvious.

It’s important to note that some of these symptoms overlap with other conditions. When in doubt, check with your holistic veterinarian to verify the severity of the condition through bloodwork.

Symptoms include:

  • Drinking excessive water
  • Lack of appetite
  • Excessive urinating
  • Incontinence
  • Lethargy
  • Overall weakness
  • Bloody urine
  • Tiredness
  • Pale gums
  • Ulcers in the mouth or stomach
  • Seizures
  • Weight loss
  • Stumbling
  • Bad breath
  • Vomiting
  • Poor coat appearance
  • Kidney stones
  • Urinary tract infections or urinary crystals

How You Can Prevent Kidney Disease

Woman pouring water into a bowl of dog food

Here are some action steps you can take to be gentle on your pup’s kidneys.

Consider a Whole Food Diet

Diet plays a huge role in your furry friend’s overall health and can help prevent kidney problems. Instead of feeding dry kibble, provide whole, hydrating foods. Dry food can dehydrate your dog and not supply the nutrients your dog needs, which causes the kidneys to work harder.

Maintain Dental Hygiene

Poor dental hygiene is a common cause of kidney problems. Keep your companion's teeth in mind during health checks, and try to keep them clean. Some dogs will let their parents brush their teeth lightly, while other pet parents use treats designed to clean teeth. Pay attention to protein content when choosing products.

Avoid Toxins

We already know you do everything in your power to keep your best friend safe, but we'll share some toxins to avoid.

Make sure your dog stays away from:

  • Chocolate
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Antifreeze
  • Household cleaners
  • Human medication like Ibuprofen
  • Rawhide
  • Preservatives in food
  • Dyes and flavorings in food
  • Peanut butter containing xylitol
  • Sugar free gum
  • Onions

Provide Regular Health Checks

Part of preventing medical conditions is to have regular health checks with your primary holistic vet. If you have any worries about potential symptoms, you can discuss these concerns and know where to go next.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have any concerns about your dog.

While your vet may tell you that there is no cure for kidney disease, we have seen remarkable improvements when dogs follow our kidney diet protocol. You CAN improve your companion’s quality of life and even extend it.

Keeping Hydrated

When dealing with kidney disease, you must keep your dog hydrated. Proper hydration will make the kidneys’ job easier and make your companion feel better.

Hydration can include introducing different hydrating fruits and vegetables (like blueberries and cucumbers) and always adding more plain water to your dog’s meals.


There are many benefits to using acupuncture on your dog. Acupuncture can activate different parts of the central nervous system through its fine needles. The procedure is known to help increase blood circulation, which will indirectly benefit the kidneys.