EquiSearch's Ask the Vet: Equine Kidney Failure

In this edition of EquiSearch.com's Ask the Vet, Dr. Joyce Harman outlines the diagnostic tests and treatment available for horses with kidney problems.
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In this edition of EquiSearch.com's Ask the Vet, Dr. Joyce Harman outlines the diagnostic tests and treatment available for horses with kidney problems.

Question:I have a 3-year-old gelding who is thin and much smaller than our other 3-year-old horses. Our vet did blood work and found that his kidneys don't work correctly. The vet told us that he won't get better. He doesn't feel good most of the time. I researched articles online and found that equine kidney failure is very rare. Is it possible that something else is going on with him?

Answer: Kidney problems are indeed fairly rare in horses, especially in young ones. They are much more common in most other species. It is certainly worth doing all the diagnostic tests you can to determine exactly what is going on with your horse. Lethargy in a young horse usually means they do not feel well. Some are by nature quiet, but they should still want to play.

To complete the diagnostic testing, I would repeat the blood work, with a complete blood count (CBC) and a hematology screen to look at the red and white blood cell counts. An internal examination of the kidneys would be in order here also. With a simple rectal exam the vet can usually feel one of the kidneys. It would be best to have an ultrasound of both kidneys done, which can be from a rectal scan as well as an external examination. You may need to go to a referral clinic that has a big ultrasound machine.

From a treatment perspective, it depends a bit on what is found. There are rare problems such as tumors on the kidney that can be difficult to treat. Conventional medicine does not have too many choices when treating kidney disease, however alternative medicine does offer choices. This is particularly true of Chinese medicine, both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. It is not possible to prescribe the exact formulas without much more detailed information and examination, but you can check for a Chinese medicine practitioner in your area at Alternative Healthcare Organizations Links. Chinese medicine looks at health in a different but effective way. The kidney is an important component of Chinese medicine, and there are many ways to support it.

Homeopathic medicine is another form of alternative medicine that offers treatments for kidney diseases. This form of medicine involves an extensive history and details of the examinations. The medicines are specially-prepared dilute substances that are only given a few times. They trigger the body to heal, then you wait until some healing has taken place before giving the next remedy. A more detailed explanation of how this form of medicine works can be found in my little homeopathic first aid book and many other books and resources. Treatment of simple conditions can easily be treated by the horse owner, but something like kidney disease needs to be treated by a practitioner. See the same Alternative Healthcare Organizations Links for organizations where you can find a practitioner.

It is best to take action on a problem like this as soon as possible. You do not want the condition to proceed to the point it is difficult to treat even with alternative medicine, and you do not want to stunt the growth and development of your youngster. With proper treatment, you should be able to get him back on track.

Dr. Joyce Harman is a veterinarian and respected saddle-fitting expert certified in veterinary acupuncture and veterinary chiropractic; she is also trained in homeopathy and herbal medicine. Her Harmany Equine Clinic is in northern Virginia. Visit her online shop.

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