Kidney disease, also known as renal disease, is any condition that causes damage to the kidneys. When the kidneys cannot function properly, the result can be life-threatening. While typically irreversible, you can help your dog manage the disease by feeding your dog the proper diet. Feeding your dog a diet complete with the proper nutritional support will help slow the progression of your dog’s kidney disease and improve their quality of life.
The Canine Kidney
The kidneys perform many key functions for the canine body including the following:
- Removal and excretion of metabolic waste and water preventing waste build up in the blood.
- Regulate ions such as calcium and phosphorus, which helps in the regulation of bone mineral metabolism as well as prevent seizures, arrythmias and respiratory problems.
- Regulation of red blood cell production by releasing a hormone called erythropoietin(ERO), which stimulates the production in the bone marrow.
- Help to maintain the correct acid-base balance of the blood, or blood pH.
- Maintain and balance of electrolytes, including sodium and potassium which regulate blood pressure.
What are the Clinical Signs of Canine Kidney Disease
A complete urinalysis and a blood chemistry analysis are used to diagnose canine kidney disease. While some dogs may show early signs of kidney disease, most do not show signs until approximately 75% of their kidney function is lost. For this reason, early detection of the disease is incredibly important.
Because early detection is so important, if you notice any of the following symptoms from your dog, kidney problems may be the cause and you should visit your Veterinarian for testing:
- Weight loss
- Physical weakness
- Increased thirst and urine production
- Blood in urine
- Decreased appetite
- Bad breath or mouth ulcers
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Poor coat
- Loss of interest in play
- Urinary tract infections
Canine Diet For Kidney Disease
If your dog has been diagnosed with kidney disease, there are some things you can do to help them feel better and improve their quality of life. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure they are getting the proper nutrition. If you follow these nutritional guidelines, you can help your dog live a comfortable life despite their kidney disease.
Please Note: It is important to consult with your Veterinarian, regarding what to feed a dog with kidney disease, using the results of your dog’s urinalysis and bloodwork, together you can decide on the best nutritional support. Ensure to have your pet retested every 3-6 months, and readjust his diet as needed.
Feeding A Dog With Kidney Disease- Important Considerations
What Type of Diet
Feeding a dog with kidney disease with, even a high-quality, commercial dog food that is not specifically designed to support the kidneys can be dangerous. Kidney disease requires specific nutritional support. So what are your options? It really comes down to 3 options; a prescription commercial dog food, a fresh delivery subscription dog food specifically designed for renal support, or a homemade diet. There are pros and cons to each of those options.
In this article we will also give our top recommendations as well as recipes for each of the options. It is important to make sure you consult your Veterinarian. By using current bloodwork, you can optimize the very best nutritional support with the advice of your Veterinarian or Canine Nutritionist.
Hydration & Moisture Content
Just like humans, dogs with kidney disease need to stay hydrated. While having access to plenty of fresh, clean water at all times is extremely important for dogs with kidney disease, you can also help keep your pet hydrated through their food. Rather than feeding kibble that has a moisture content of around 10-15% on average, choose fresh whole food ingredients with as much as 85% moisture. If that is not an option, opt for canned food.
What Should A Diet For Kidney Disease Look Like?
Affiliate Disclaimer: Many of the links below are affiliate links for products that I use and recommend to my clients. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Using the links will not cost you anything but we will earn a very small commission. For more details see our disclaimer page.
High Quality, Digestible Protein
A controversial subject in the treatment of kidney disease is the amount of portent. More recent studies have found that more important than whether the diet restricts protein intake or not is ensuring that protein intake is high quality. In addition, a protein deficiency may cause or worsen existing anemia, hypoalbuminemia, poor coat, and loss of muscle mass.
Fresh, whole food proteins rather than processed portions such as in kibble and other manufactured diets provide a more positive impact on health and will help your dog maintain muscle mass. Look for highly digestible, with a high biological value, proteins. High-quality proteins will also decrease the workload on the kidneys as they have less protein waste to process. Aim for protein levels of 15% Dry Mass.
High Quality, Digestible Sources of Protein:
Note: Cooking the protein lowers the digestibility because it exposes the enzymes to heat. Feed whole foods raw for best results.
Restrict Phosphate Intake
One of the jobs of the kidney is to remove phosphorous from the body. With impaired kidneys, phosphorous begins to accumulate in the blood. The increase in phosphorous stimulates the parathyroid gland to increase blood calcium, which it does by removing calcium from the bones. This contributes to brittle bones as well as to lethargy and poor appetite. Limiting phosphate intake along with a limited protein intake has been shown to limit the progression of kidney disease.
The goal phosphorus level defined by the International Renal Interest Society is between 2.5 and 4.6 mg/dl for earlier renal insufficiency stages, and to keep in under 6 for Stage 4 (more advanced) patients(1).
A phosphate binder can also be used to bind phosphate and help prevent excess from being absorbed into the bloodstream and lowering the blood levels of phosphorus.
Adequate Calcium and Vitamin D
As mentioned above, excess phosphate can cause calcium to be removed from the bones. To ensure a dog with kidney disease does not incur musculoskeletal disorders, it is important to ensure they have an adequate amount of both calcium and vitamin D.
Vets will often recommend Calcitriol, which is the active form of Vitamin D, which is the hormone that helps your dog absorb calcium. Calcitriol has been proven to effectively reduce renal failure. Veterinarians recommend this supplement as it does not have any negative side effects.
Restrict Sodium Intake
Dogs with renal disease cannot tolerate excessively high or low sodium intake. In fact, Hypertension in dogs with renal disease is estimated to be 58-93%. Aim for sodium intake for dogs with renal disease to be .1-.25% DM (5-30 mg/kg q 24 HR)
Include Kidneys or Organs
Organ meat, particularly kidneys can help support the kidney itself. Organ meats and glands are an essential source of proteins, peptides, enzymes, and cofactors for our canine family members. If you can not easily get actual organs and kidneys to feed your dog, or you do not want to deal with the mess, use a Glandular supplement that contains kidneys and other organs. I highly recommend the company Standard Process, for their organ-based supplements.
Add this for even greater support.
Include Omega-6:Omega-3 Fatty Acids at 5:1
There is evidence that supplements with omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 PUFA provide a benefit to dogs with kidney disease. The optimal ratio for these is 5:1. Be sure you are using whole-body fish oil rather than cod liver oil.
Kidney Support Supplements
These natural supplements provide nutritional support with added benefits to help aid in supporting the canine kidney.
Prescription Dog Food For Dogs With Kidney Disease
There are special dog foods available that are designed for dogs with kidney disease. These are some of the ones we recommended for dogs with kidney disease.
Non-Prescription Vet-Approved Dog Food For Dogs With Kidney Disease
These foods are non-prescription, however, they are vet approved and meet all the requirements as a good food for kidney-diseased dogs.
Ship to Home Whole Food Diets
If you are looking for the most healthy option for a diet for your dog but do not have the time to actually prepare their meal from scratch at home, a great solution is a ship to your home, whole food dog food. I highly recommend Spot and Tango.
Homemade Dog Food For Dogs With Kidney Disease
Before putting your dog with kidney disease on a homemade diet, it is important that you not only have researched the requirements of a balanced diet for a renal patient but also that you know your pet’s own vitals and bloodwork. Only then, and with the guidance of your veterinarian or a canine nutritionist, should you feed your dog a homemade diet if they have kidney disease. If you do, meet those criteria and move forward with a homemade diet, your dog will be thankful, as they likely will have far better results than with any other options.
Here are 3 vet-approved homemade recipes for dogs with kidney disease.
Additional Considerations For Feeding Dogs With Kidney Disease
Most commercial dog foods are designed to be acidifying, causing pets with kidney disease to become too acidic. It is important to counteract this issue by providing a diet specifically designed to be non-acidifying.
Finally, make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise. Walking and playing are great ways to help them stay active, while also promoting kidney function.
Small Frequent Meals
Feeding your dog small, frequent meals throughout the day is also important. This help to prevent them from becoming nauseous or experiencing an upset stomach.
Dogs with kidney disease tend to become more averse to food as the disease progresses. In order to keep the dog interested in eating, which is extremely important, rotate among 3 or 4 recipes.
For more information on the evidence behind these nutrient, alterations read this article in Today’s Veterinary Practice.