It’s important to know that just like humans, dogs can get kidney disease too. Kidney disease, a.k.a. renal disease, happens when a part of the kidneys called nephrons become damaged. Nephrons are responsible for filtering waste and excess fluid from the kidneys. When their function is impaired, the kidneys become damaged over time.
Diet has a lot to do with why some dogs will develop kidney disease, and it also plays a crucial role in slowing the progression of the disease once your dog has been diagnosed. Diets for dogs with kidney disease are not one size fits all, so it can be a little tricky to find the right fit. However, with the help and advice of a vet it is possible to find a solution that will suit yours and your dog’s needs well.
Best Dry Food
Best Wet Food
Purina Pro Plan
Natural’s kidney support dry dog grain-free food
Hill's prescription diet kidney-care dry dog food
Royal Canin veterinary diet renal support dry dog food
Purina’s Pro kidney function veterinary diet canned food
Blue Natural’s Kidney Support dry dog food is made without chicken or poultry by-product meals, grains corn, wheat, soy, artificial preservatives, or artificial flavors. Like all Blue Buffalo foods, this healthy and holistic diet is formulated to follow the, “Love them like family. Feed them like family,” slogan, which is something that many owners feel strongly about.
What makes this Kidney Support diet effective are controlled protein levels to reduce the workload placed on the kidneys and restricted mineral levels to support kidney health. This dry food contains vital nutrients while maintaining a delicious taste that dogs love. Tastiness is key in a kidney diet because dogs with kidney disease often lack an appetite and lose a lot of weight.
Satisfied owners have seen progress when giving this food to their dogs with kidney disease. Blue Buffalo KS has lower phosphorus levels than some competing brands, making it a good choice when other foods aren’t working. Owners love that this formula contains no by-products and natural ingredients, plus it has a taste that picky dogs enjoy.
Hill's Prescription Diet Kidney Care with Chicken Dry Dog Food is a prescription diet containing reduced phosphorus and protein levels to help maintain healthy kidney function and reduce the kidney’s workload. Sodium is also reduced in this formula to help dogs maintain healthy blood pressure (this will also help dogs with kidney problems avoid dehydration when eating dry food).
Another thing that’s special about this food is the increased levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are important when it comes to encouraging blood flow to the kidneys. There are also increased antioxidants and B Vitamins that help compensate for vitamin losses in the urine. This chicken-flavored clinical nutrition is designed to improve and lengthen quality of life for dogs with kidney problems.
Hill's renal dog food contains between 12 and 16% crude protein, max 0.28% sodium, and between 0.05 and 0.5% phosphorus. Although many owners agree that the price is a little high, many of their dogs enjoyed this food and have done well on it. Several owners noted improvements in their dogs’ digestion compared to other kidney diet foods while others said their dogs ate it better with wet food mixed in.
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support Dry Dog Food is a veterinary diet dry dog food designed to manage the early stages of chronic kidney disease in small and medium breed adult dogs. It also manages all stages of kidney disease in larger breeds, making it a pretty versatile formula. Renal Support helps slow the progression of kidney problems and minimizes uncomfortable symptoms.
This food uses dietary fat to improve palatability so that dogs with liver problems will want to eat it. This renal support formula is easy for them to digest and is enriched with Vitamin B and fatty acids EPA and DHA to help regulate inflammatory reactions. Other nutrients, like protein, phosphorus, and sodium, are restricted to slow down the development of kidney disease.
Some owners may find this vet exclusive food looks familiar. That’s because it used to be called Veterinary Diet Renal MP Modified Dry Dog Food. This new re-named formula has some improvements, including a better aroma and texture to make it more appealing to dogs. The new and improved, high-quality formula also has more health benefits for dogs, which owners love.
Purina’s Pro Plan Kidney Function Formula Veterinary Diet canned dog food contains a minimum of 2.5% crude protein with 74% moisture. There is max 0.15% phosphorus and 0.13% sodium in this formula, which is also enriched with Vitamin E, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin A, Vitamin D-3 and riboflavin. This low sodium, phosphorus and protein mince-textured formula which is made in the USA is designed for dogs with chronic renal failure and hepatic disease.
Pet owners have noted that this food helps their dogs with kidney problems, but it needs to be fed to them consistently over a period to see and maintain a difference. Owners have also found that this food makes their pets’ coats shiny and healthy looking, a bonus in addition to maintaining healthy hydration levels and slowing the progression of their kidney disease!
If you just learned that your dog has kidney disease, or you’re worried they might, it’s understandable that you would have a lot of questions. Keep reading to learn more about what causes kidney disease in dogs, what the symptoms are, the do's and dont's when it comes to feeding a dog with kidney issues, and for reviews of top-rated dog foods for kidney disease.
First, let’s look at the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for kidney failure in dogs. This 1-minute video gives a quick overview of the diagnosis and treatment of canine kidney disease.
Dogs can end up with kidney problems for a variety of reasons. Acute kidney problems often have an immediate cause that can be treated, like the dog ingesting something that they shouldn’t have. Chronic kidney disease (CKD), on the other hand, is a degenerative disease that is minor at first and gradually gets worse. The causes of CKD are a little harder to pinpoint than those of acute kidney issues.
According to an ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist,
Surprisingly, a main cause of chronic kidney failure in dogs is dental disease. Bacteria associated with advanced dental disease enter the blood stream and invades multiple organs, causing irreversible damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys.
That’s why you should try to take good care of your dog’s teeth!
Since kidney disease mostly affects older dogs, one of the biggest factors aside from dental disease is age. As dogs get older, their chances of getting kidney disease just tends to go up. Whether or not they eat a healthy diet and exercise will make the difference between a dog with moderate to severe kidney disease. A poor diet can lead to kidney issues or make the existing problem worse.
Like other conditions that affect dogs, kidney disease is associated with a long list of symptoms that can also be associated with other things. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it’s important not to overlook them. Consult a vet to narrow it down and rule out whether it could be kidney disease.
Some symptoms of kidney failure in dogs include, but are not limited to:
It’s important to know the symptoms of kidney failure in dogs and be on the lookout for them early on. Kidney disease is sneaky in that by the time you suspect your dog might have it, it might have already progressed quite a bit. Early detection is key for slowing down the progression of the disease and treating symptoms to improve your dog’s quality of life.
There are two main things that you should look for when searching for a good kidney failure diet for your dog. The first is moderate quantity + high quality protein. The reason for this is that when protein breaks down in the body it leaves waste that needs to be filtered by the kidneys. By reducing the amount and keeping only high-quality protein, there is less work for the kidneys to do.
This recommendation is a little controversial and comes with a caveat. You don’t want dangerously low levels of protein in a dog’s diet if they’re in the earlier stages of kidney disease, because they need that protein to function and thrive. Otherwise they’ll end up malnourished, which is no good. Lower protein diets like prescription diets from vets should be avoided until the later stages of kidney failure.
The second thing to look for in a dog food for kidney disease is restricted phosphate or phosphorus, which will help slow the progression of kidney failure and protect the kidneys from further damage.
Don’t be discouraged if you dog doesn’t like the first type of kidney diet food you try. Dogs with kidney problems can suffer from a decreased appetite, so these foods are specifically made to be highly palatable. You might have to play around with it, but you should be able to find a dry or canned formula that your dog will agree with. Raw diets are also an option if you have the time and resources.
Another important thing to think about when buying food for a dog with kidney disease is water. Extra water is needed in their diet to help flush out toxins and help with kidney function, which is why wet food is often recommended for dogs with kidney issues. Wet food can help increase water intake, therefore fighting dehydration in a dog that isn’t drinking enough water.
Low sodium dry dog food is an alternative option that is better for dogs with kidney disease than dry foods that are higher in sodium. Not having a lot of sodium is important because it will help your dog avoid dehydration
Dr. Mahaney, a holistic vet from LA, explained in a petMD article:
In kidney failure, the body is not properly excreting toxins through the kidneys. As a result, more moisture is needed to flush out nitrogen, creatinine, phosphorous, and other metabolic wastes from the body. Therefore, my primary recommendation is to feed a diet that is moistened by water or low-sodium and free from vegetables of the onion and garlic varieties.
A few final things to look for in a kidney failure diet are textured food to keep teeth clean, since kidney disease and gum disease go hand in hand, and Omega 3 fatty acids. Increased B Vitamins are also important to help compensate for urine loss of water-soluble vitamins, along with added antioxidants to control cell damage and promote a healthy immune system.
Some foods that contribute to kidney failure in dogs are foods that cause immune reactions, like wheat gluten found in dry food and store-bought treats, dairy, and cooked meat. Unnecessary chemicals from flea and worm treatments or booster shots can also contribute to kidney failure.
These things will likely need to be taken out of your dog’s diet and lifestyle if they are diagnosed with kidney disease. You can also make the decision to restrict these foods and chemicals before diagnosis as a preventative measure.
Other toxic things that dogs can ingest that would impair or greatly damage kidney function include:
It’s important that if you keep any of these things around the house that they are locked away or put on a high shelf where your dog cannot get to it. These substances are toxic to dogs and if ingested you should seek vet assistance immediately. Aside from keeping away anything unsafe, feeding your dog a diet that is balanced, healthy, and free of problem ingredients is the best way to avoid kidney failure.
After seeing all this information about low protein diets for dogs, you might be wondering if it’s possible to put your dog on a low protein raw dog food diet. The thing is, there’s information available that says that dogs with kidney problems can thrive on a biologically natural, high protein diet. What’s bad is putting a dog on a dry, low protein diet with unnecessary carbohydrates that exacerbate kidney issues.
Rather, a fresh meal for dogs with kidney failure should have moderate protein levels and be low in phosphorus. Meals for this type of diet should be made up of approximately 50% fresh animal protein and 50% cooked, easy to digest carbs and vegetables. As far as the meat portion goes, leaner red meats are a low-phosphorus option compared to protein sources like chicken or fish.
It’s important to note that even though we may love our furry friends and want to shower them with treats and love, there is such a thing as too many treats, especially for a dog with kidney disease. Ideally, your dog’s treats should make up no more than 10% of their total calorie intake per day. It’s important to keep track of who is giving treats in the family, so you don’t accidentally go overboard.
When it comes to dogs with kidney disease, you can look for commercial treats that are low in calories and protein or you can make your own.
These are low-calorie bone shaped treats that contain less sodium, protein, and phosphorus, and more fiber than regular dog treats. These treats are designed to be used in tandem with prescription diet dog foods to help dogs meet weight goals while maintaining heart and kidney health. They are also made to be palatable so dogs with kidney failure will love them.
Another commercial treat for dogs with kidney disease is Mattie’s Treats for dogs with kidney disease. These low protein, low phosphorus treats are free from wheat gluten, corn, and soy. They use simple, natural ingredients that complement prescription diets and have a real pumpkin and cinnamon taste that dogs adore. Bonus: a percentage of their sales is donated to canine kidney disease research!
If commercial dog treats aren’t for you and you would rather know exactly what is in your dog’s treats, you can find plenty of recipes online. One low protein option is this Sweet Potato Dog Cookies recipe. Another perfectly good option is veggies! They are naturally low calorie, healthy, one-ingredient, and a lot of dogs love them. You can give your dog (in moderation) carrots, green beans, broccoli, and others.
On top of the main recommendations, there are several other dietary additions that you can consider as an owner looking to shape up your dog’s diet because of kidney disease. One of these additions is eggs, which are a great source of easily digestible protein (although you should use more egg white than yolk). Vitamin A and Vitamin C are also essential to lubricate kidneys and balance blood pH levels.
Organic turmeric is an excellent addition to a dog with kidney disease’s diet because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Apple cider vinegar and herbs like green tea and alfalfa are known for helping to boost kidney function. Ginger extract can help protect kidney function and reduce inflammation. Both ginger and therapeutic grade peppermint oil reduce nausea in dogs with later stage kidney disease.
If you’re worried that your dog is not getting everything they need you can find products like Standard Process Canine Renal Kidney Support to supplement with. In addition to supporting the function of the kidneys, this product helps with liver, cardiovascular system, and autonomic nervous system function.
Spirulina and food grade activated charcoal are other supplements that are sometimes used for dogs who have kidney failure due to their detoxification properties.
If you suspect that your dog might have kidney problems or recently found out that they were in either the early or late stages of kidney failure, you might be wondering about your next steps. One of the first things you will need to figure out is your dog’s diet and whether you will go with a commercial option or make your own dog food.
Should you decide to go with a commercial food, there are plenty of kidney support diets available made by trusted brands. One of the best is Blue Buffalo KS. Compared to similar brands, this formula is lower in phosphorus and owners have noted that they have seen improvements in their dogs after starting them on this food. It tastes great too and doesn’t have problem ingredients like corn and wheat.
Whichever way you choose to go, just remember that a carefully balanced diet with the right additions and supplements should help slow the progression of your dog’s kidney disease and ease unpleasant symptoms. Before making changes to your dog’s diet, its important to consult their vet to make sure they are getting the appropriate nutrition for the stage of kidney failure they are at.