When to Euthanize a Dog with Kidney Failure (Western vs. Eastern Perspective)

When to Euthanize a Dog with Kidney Failure (Western vs. Eastern Perspective)

The decision regarding when to euthanize a dog with kidney failure can be influenced by various factors, including the perspectives of Western veterinary medicine and Eastern Medicine, aka Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM).

Please understand individual veterinarians may have different approaches and viewpoints, so the guidelines below are general tendencies rather than absolute rules.

Below is a comparison of the two perspectives.

Western Perspective

The Western perspective on when to euthanize a dog with kidney failure emphasizes medical assessment, symptom management, quality of life, and prognosis.

Medical Assessment

Western veterinary medicine emphasizes laboratory tests, imaging, and physical examinations to diagnose and assess the severity of kidney failure.

Parameters such as blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine levels, urine output, and overall health status are considered.

Symptom Management

Treatment focuses on managing symptoms and slowing the progression of kidney disease.

Medications, dietary changes, fluid therapy, and other interventions may be employed to maintain your dog’s quality of life.

Quality of Life

Western veterinary medicine also emphasizes the concept of quality of life.

Veterinarians consider factors such as pain, appetite, mobility, hydration, and overall well-being when assessing your dog’s quality of life.

Euthanasia may be considered if your dog’s quality of life significantly deteriorates and cannot be effectively managed.


Western veterinary medicine bases the prognosis on the severity of kidney disease and response to treatment.

If your dog’s prognosis is poor and there is little chance of improvement, your veterinarian may recommend euthanasia.

Eastern (TCVM) Perspective

The Eastern perspective on when to euthanize a dog with kidney failure is different from the Western perspective.

When dogs suffer from chronic diseases like renal failure, TCVM can often help when Western medicine can’t.

Unfortunately, there isn’t yet a cure for kidney failure.

However, because Eastern medicine treats kidney failure differently, dogs often have a longer and better quality of life and less need for euthanasia.

Pattern Diagnosis

TCVM focuses on a holistic approach that considers the underlying patterns of imbalance within the body.

Practitioners evaluate your dog’s symptoms, tongue appearance, pulse, and other diagnostic techniques to identify patterns associated with kidney disease.

Upon discovering the patterns and deficiencies, TCVM-trained vets can recommend dietary changes, herbs, and other modalities to improve your dog’s quality of life.

Qi and Blood Flow

TCVM emphasizes balancing the flow of Qi (energy) and blood within the body to promote healing.

Treatment may involve acupuncture, herbal remedies, dietary adjustments, and lifestyle modifications to restore balance and support the kidneys’ function.

Bringing your dog into balance also improves overall well-being and health in other areas.

Improving overall health and well-being, in turn, enhances your dog’s life and extends survival.


TCVM recognizes that each animal is unique, and treatment plans are tailored to the individual.

TCVM-trained vets will customize treatments to your dog’s unique challenges.

For example, many dogs often suffer other health challenges besides kidney disease.

In such cases, the vet can tweak TCVM treatments to help the other conditions simultaneously.

As mentioned earlier, the holistic approach of bringing your dog into energetic balance improves all areas of health.

Many dogs may respond positively to TCVM interventions, experiencing improved quality of life and prolonged survival.

Natural Progression

TCVM may have a different perspective on the natural progression of disease compared to Western medicine.

Some TCVM practitioners may have a longer-term viewpoint, focusing on managing symptoms and promoting balance rather than solely considering the current stage of kidney failure.

Promoting balance and easing symptoms make your dog feel better, prolonging your dog’s life and improving its quality.

In both perspectives, the well-being of your dog is the primary concern.

The decision to euthanize ultimately depends on your dog’s overall condition, prognosis, and ability to maintain an acceptable quality of life.

Pet owners must work closely with their veterinarians to make informed decisions based on their dog’s specific circumstances and needs.

Deciding when it’s time to euthanize a dog is a deeply personal and difficult decision.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for when to euthanize a dog with kidney failure.

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, several factors can help guide decision-making.

Below is a summary of each.

Quality of Life

Assessing your dog’s overall quality of life is crucial.

Can your dog still eat, drink, walk, play, and engage in activities he/she once enjoyed?

If your dog is experiencing chronic pain, suffering, or a significant decline in his/her quality of life, euthanasia may be the most compassionate choice.

Pain and Suffering

Evaluate your dog’s pain levels and his/her response to pain management.

If pain cannot be adequately controlled, or if your dog is suffering despite efforts to alleviate their discomfort, euthanasia might be a compassionate choice.

Mobility and Independence

Observe your dog’s mobility and ability to move comfortably.

If they are experiencing severe mobility issues or cannot perform essential functions independently (such as going to the bathroom), it can severely impact their quality of life.

Loss of Bodily Functions

Consider the loss of control over bodily functions, such as bladder or bowel control. If your dog is experiencing distress or discomfort due to these issues, it may indicate that euthanasia should be considered.

Prognosis and Response to Treatment

Evaluate your dog’s prognosis and response to any treatment options available. If the prognosis is poor, and your dog is not responding to treatment or experiencing a decline despite medical interventions, euthanasia may be a humane choice.

Weight Loss and Malnutrition

Consider significant and irreversible weight loss or malnutrition despite efforts to address it.

If your dog cannot maintain a healthy weight and is experiencing muscle wasting or weakness, it may impact his or her overall well-being.

Terminal or Irreversible Conditions

In cases where your dog has a terminal illness or an irreversible condition, and the suffering is expected to continue or worsen, euthanasia may be considered to prevent further pain and distress.

Your Emotional Well-being

It’s also essential to consider your emotional well-being.

If the burden of caregiving becomes overwhelming or your emotional health is significantly affected, it may be a factor in the decision-making process.

All of the above factors should be considered in consultation with your veterinarian. Your vet can help you decide when to euthanize a dog with kidney failure based on their professional expertise and knowledge of the specific condition.

Ultimately, the decision should prioritize your dog’s well-being, comfort, and dignity.

Do You Need Extra Help With Your Dog’s Kidney Failure?

Our founding veterinarians, Dr. Marc Smith and Dr. Casey Damron offer Holistic and TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine) Telemedicine Consultations.

If you get a TCVM telemedicine consultation with one of our veterinarians ($125), you’ll get personalized recommendations specific to your pet, including:

  • Food Therapy Recommendations
  • TCVM Herb Recommendations & Veterinary Authorization
  • Supplement Recommendations
  • Alternative Medicine Recommendations
  • Answers to Your Questions

You can learn more about our founding veterinarians and their expertise and/or schedule by visiting their websites:

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