Our kidneys serve the important function of filtering blood and maintaining the balance of fluids in our bodies. When kidneys are not working properly it wreaks havoc on bodily systems. Toxins and waste accumulate in the blood and fluids, salt, and minerals become imbalanced in the body.
Kidney disease impacts around 1 in 10 dogs, which is why early detection is important to slow down the disease’s progression. Making an appointment with your veterinarian at the first sign of trouble can allow you to adjust your dog’s diet, improve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
Keep reading to learn about the importance of a low-phosphorus diet for pets with renal disease, followed by a guide on how to choose the best low-phosphorus dog food.
To help you select the right food for your dog, we’ve included our reviews of the best prescription and non-prescription low-phosphorus dog foods.
We also linked to a recipe in case you’re interested in making your dog’s food yourself (just make sure you get your vet’s OK first!).
Why is a low-phosphorus diet useful for pets with renal disease?
Renal or kidney disease impairs the body’s ability to regulate phosphorus levels in the blood.
However, you can’t just take this mineral out of your dog’s diet and call it a day.
Phosphorus is required for certain jobs in the body, which is why balance is key when it comes to adjusting your dog’s dietary intake.
According to Healthline:
“Phosphorus is the second most plentiful mineral in your body. The first is calcium. Your body needs phosphorus for many functions, such as filtering waste and repairing tissue and cells … Kidney disease or eating too much phosphorus and not enough calcium can lead to an excess of phosphorous.”
Excess phosphorus can lead to a wide variety of symptoms and complications.
Cardiovascular is another complication that can result from excess phosphorus in the blood, which is why a lot of kidney support diets are also designed to protect the heart.
A low-phosphorus diet reduces the workload on the kidneys and decreases the chances that your dog will suffer from these complications, especially in the early stages of the disease.
In stage 1 of chronic kidney disease, you may choose a non-kidney specific diet with phosphorus below 1.5g/1000 kcal and moderate protein. When your dog enters stage 3 of the disease or becomes uremic, a diet designed specifically for kidney disease with reduced protein is necessary.
If your vet recommends that to treat an existing problem your pup be fed a specific 'prescription' dog food, then that is what he should be given.
The Do's and Don'ts of ingredients to use in a low-phosphorus dog food?
DO work with the following ingredients:
DON'T work with the following ingredients:
7 Things a low-phosphorus canine diet should have
1. Moderate to high, easily digestible protein
Protein is the key to health and longevity when it comes to dogs with renal disease.
Historically, a low protein diet was recommended to reduce the workload on the kidneys, the reasoning being because less protein means less toxins that need to be excreted after. The problem is, dogs on these diets didn’t live any longer and lost important muscle mass.
Now we know that dogs with chronic renal failure and healthy aging dogs actually need slightly elevated levels of protein. The extra protein helps dogs maintain an active lifestyle and is associated with general improvements in well-being. The only case where a low protein diet is necessary for dogs with chronic renal disease is when the dog is uremic.
2. Omega 3 fatty acids
Known to have a beneficial effect in dogs with chronic renal failure, Omega 3 fatty acids are good for the eyes, brain, heart, inflammation, and more.
An important part of this diet is low-phosphorus. It’s important to note that even though it’s reduced, the phosphorus in your dog’s food is still essential and plays an important role.
4. B-Complex Vitamins
B-complex vitamins are water soluble and often leave the body along with the excess urine that comes with kidney disease. Supplementing with these vitamins helps make sure your dog gets important benefits like energy, immune support, and healthy cells.
5. Nitrogen Trap
Dark, leafy greens can act as a nitrogen trap, helping to divert excess protein waste products from the bloodstream to the colon. This reduces the work on the kidneys and helps lower high Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) levels.
Sources of potassium like bananas and green beans help support the kidneys and promote better detoxification.
Because dogs with kidney disease often get dehydrated, some vets recommend feeding a canned food. Always make sure your dog has fresh, clean water regardless of if you feed them wet or dry. Moistening your dog’s dry food is another way to increase their moisture intake.
Best Low-Phosphorus Dog Food Reviews of 2020
If your pup is actively treated for kidney disease and your vet recommends he follows a therapeutic diet you should follow that recommendation for as long as they suggest it.
So, without further ado let's take a look at some of the best prescription and non-prescription phosphorus-reduced dog food options on the market.
Best Non-Prescription Low Phosphorus Dog Foods
We're starting off our reviews with the top 5 non-prescription commercial low-phosphorus diets available over the counter without a prescription. Click here if you want to skip to the list of prescription low-phosphorus dry dog foods.
1. Dave's Pet Food Restricted Diet Protein & Phosphorus Farmyard Blend in Sauce
Best for: Uremic dogs who require a low protein diet
Very low protein diets do not benefit most dogs with renal disease, but do help those with high blood urea. If your dog with kidney disease suffers from this issue, your vet will likely recommend a reduced protein diet. This all breeds adult recipe from Dave’s Pet Food is grain and carrageenan free, with reduced sodium for blood pressure maintenance.
A wet diet can be a good option for dogs with renal disease because it adds necessary moisture to their diet. The Farmyard blend uses naturally healthy ingredients while keeping protein and phosphorus levels low. This eases strain on the kidneys while still giving your dog the healthy meat for lean muscle mass and phosphorus for waste filtration and tissue support.
The main ingredients in this recipe are chicken broth, peas, chicken, chicken fat, and potatoes. Other notable ingredients are salmon oil (a source of Omega fatty acids), calcium carbonate, dandelion greens, and parsley. There is at least 0.05% phosphorus and 4.5% protein in this canned food. Owners have seen improvements feeding this to older and picky dogs, reporting improvements in their weight and energy.
2. HI-TOR Veterinary Select Neo Diet
Best for: Adult dogs with renal disease and moderate protein needs
Like most diets made for kidney support, HI-TOR’s dry Veterinary Select Neo diet is made with reduced protein, sodium, and phosphorus. Dogs love it because it’s highly palatable with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. This pea free recipe is ideal for adult maintenance and was designed to be highly digestible. This means your dog absorbs more nutrients with fewer symptoms of upset.
Another way that this recipe supports your dog’s digestive system is its low fat content, while still including important essential fatty acids. The ingredients include ground brewer’s rice, ground yellow corn, poultry by-product meal, chicken fat, and rice bran. Calcium is also included in the recipe. Poultry by-product meal is a high protein meal that consists of parts like chicken liver, lungs, and spleen.
Owners like that this food was made in the US, using North American and European ingredients. While some say that they didn’t like the smell of this food it does come highly recommended. It’s comparable to a lot of prescription renal diets for dogs without the price tag and most picky dogs do well on it. This non-prescription food has at least 13% protein and 0.2% - 0.7% phosphorus.
3. HI-TOR Veterinary Select Eno Diet Canned Dog Food
Best for: Dogs who require a bland diet and low protein
If your dog with renal disease suffers from uremia or has stomach problems, HI-TOR’s Veterinary Select Eno Diet is an excellent option. This food is for adult maintenance and is pea-free, since peas are a common trigger of digestive issues in dogs. Perfect for dogs with chronic gastrointestinal problems, this canned food is bland and non-irritating.
HI-TOR designed this recipe to be highly digestible, without any artificial flavors or colors that could exacerbate your dog’s issues. To minimize stress and irritation of the GI tract, the main ingredients included in this recipe are water, chicken, pork liver, rice flour, and corn meal. Corn meal is a highly digestible source of important fatty acids.
This formula contains at least 6.5% protein and 0.2% phosphorus. Owners recommend it because it is affordable and effective in maintaining their dog’s health.
4. Lotus Oven-Baked Senior Small Bites Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food
Best for: Small breed Dogs with Kidney Disease
Finding a good dry food for a small dog with kidney disease can be tricky, since most of them use larger kibble that’s made for all breeds. For small dogs who struggle with larger pieces, Lotus’ Oven-Baked Senior Small Bites is the perfect compromise. This food was made for older dogs to support overall health. Baking makes the food flavorful and preserves all of the great nutrition inside!
The main ingredients in this recipe are chicken, rye (a high-quality grain), chicken liver, sardine, and brown rice. Olive and salmon oil are included as sources of omega fatty acids, along with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support the whole body and offer an immunity boost. Owners like that this food is less processed and starchy than others on the market.
Although this food is not specifically designed for dogs with renal disease, it does have optimized calcium and phosphorus levels as a way to support kidney health. The dry recipe contains at least 18% protein and 0.49% phosphorus. Satisfied customers have said that their fussy dogs find this food irresistible.
5. Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Sweet Potato & Venison Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Best for: Dogs with kidney disease AND allergies/sensitivities
Natural Balance’s limited ingredient formulas are made using quality, limited yet high quality protein and carbohydrate sources. With unique meat like venison and easily digestible sweet potato, this healthy wholesome recipe has what your dog needs to thrive. While not designed for kidney problems, venison is a protein source that is naturally low in phosphorus, making this formula a viable option.
This grain free recipe is designed to sooth dogs’ sensitive stomachs and avoid triggering allergies. Since dogs with kidney problems can experience symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, a food that will not exacerbate those issues is a plus! The main ingredients in this recipe are sweet potato, venison, pea protein, potato protein, and canola oil. Flaxseed provides an important source of Omega fatty acids.
The Sweet Potato & Venison formula has at least 20% protein and 0.6% phosphorus. It contains no corn, wheat, soy, or artificial colors and flavors. This diet can be fed to adult dogs of all breeds and comes highly recommended by dog owners for its effectiveness when it comes to allergies, sensitivities, and digestive problems.
Best Prescription Low Phosphorus Dog Foods
6. Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet KS Kidney Support Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Best for: Dogs who require kidney and immune support
Blue Buffalo’s Kidney Support dry dog food is made using the finest natural ingredients and controlled levels of protein to reduce kidney workload. This grain free recipe uses healthy chicken as its source of protein and also limits sodium and phosphorus. The recipe also contains added antioxidants, l-carnitine, and omega 3 fatty acids to support overall health.
This natural veterinarian prescribed diet is made with wholesome, tasty ingredients that are easy to digest – perfect for dogs with sensitive stomachs! The main ingredients in this recipe are deboned chicken, potato starch, pea starch, peas, and potatoes. Other healthy additions include flaxseed, fish oil, berries, parsley, and pre/probiotics. There is no corn, wheat, or soy in this formula.
The minimum protein in this recipe is 14% and there is between 0.25% and 0.55% phosphorus. Like other Blue Buffalo recipes, this dry food contains special LifeSource bits with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Dogs love this palatable kidney diet and their owners love how effective it is. The only downside is the kibble might be too large for some dogs.
7. Hill's Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care Chicken & Vegetable Stew
Best for: Dogs who are uremic or in the final stages of renal disease
Hill’s offers dogs with kidney problems the help of clinically proven nutrition. Their Kidney Care formula was designed with the help of Hill’s nutritionists and veterinarians to support both kidney and heart function. It also assists dogs in sustaining muscle mass to improve their quality of life. This diet can bring back your dog’s vitality and energy while building or maintaining lean muscle mass.
The key to this tasty formula’s success is the controlled levels of phosphorus and sodium, along with therapeutic levels of l-carnitine and Omega 3 fatty acids. The recipe is also high in essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein. The main ingredients are water, chicken, carrots, rice, and chicken fat. Fish oil and flaxseed provide healthy fatty acids.
Hill’s Kidney Care is made in the USA and requires a veterinarian’s authorization to purchase. It contains at least 2.5% protein. Some owners dislike the smell of this food, however it does seem to be effective when protein restriction is necessary. Owners have seen improvements in their older dogs with kidney disease using this food, especially for those with appetite loss.
8. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support A Dry Dog Food
Best for: Dogs who require moderate protein and low phosphorus
Royal Canin’s Renal Support dry dog food is a targeted diet made to tempt your dog with its enticing aroma (that’s what the ‘A’ stands for!). The rectangular kibble is energy dense, meaning that your dog can eat less and still get all the calories and nutrition they need. As an owner of a dog with kidney disease, you know this is good news because appetite loss is a common symptom.
For adult dogs of all breeds, this food complements Royal Canin’s other renal support formulas. It is a vet prescribed diet with low protein and phosphorus that is easy to digest. The main ingredients in this recipe are brewer’s rice, chicken fat, corn, corn gluten meal, and natural flavors. It also has a special blend of antioxidants for a healthy immune system and EPA/DHA to regulate inflammation.
Developed with the assistance of veterinarians, pet nutritionists, and other experts from around the world, Renal Support A is highly rated by owners. It has a minimum of 12% protein and a maximum of 0.27% phosphorus. Dog owners report overall health improvements in their dogs after switching to this food as well as appetite improvements.
9. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function Formula Dry Dog Food
Best for: Dogs who are sensitive or allergic to peas
Purina Pro Plan’s veterinary diet offers the balanced nutrition that your dog needs, with reduced sodium, phosphorus, and protein to minimize the workload on the kidneys. With this diet your dog benefits from optimal nutrition plus special dietary changes that help ease symptoms, slow progression of renal disease, and improve quality of life.
This all breed adult formula focuses on high quality proteins and B-complex vitamins to protect the body and break down nutrients so they’re better absorbed. The top ingredients in this formula are whole grain corn, brewer’s rice, dried egg product, animal fat, and sugar. Fish oil is also included as a source of healthy Omega fatty acids.
This NF Kidney Function formula is made in the USA. Although the first five ingredients don’t mention a source of whole animal protein, this food is highly rated and designed to be easy on the kidneys. Owners say that it provides their dogs with more energy and is palatable for picky and senior dogs with appetite loss. The recipe contains at least 12% protein and a maximum of 0.4% phosphorus.
10. Hill's Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care with Lamb Dry Dog Food
Best for: Dogs with kidney problems who are allergic to poultry
Chicken is a top allergen for dogs commonly used in dog food and kidney diets because it is lean and healthy. Hill’s Kidney Care dry dog food with lamb offers a nutritious alternative. Like its wet counterpart, Hill’s prescription food for kidney disease is clinically proven. It’s developed by vets and pet nutritionists to preserve kidney function, heart health, and muscle mass.
A proper preventative diet can improve and lengthen your dog’s quality of life. Because food intake is often a problem with this disease, Hill’s has developed Enhanced Appetite Trigger Technology to encourage your dog to eat more. Controlled phosphorus and sodium reduce kidney workload while therapeutic levels of l-carnitine and Omega 3 fatty acids help manage weight and inflammation.
The primary ingredients in this recipe are brown rice, brewer’s rice, pork fat, cracked pearled barley, and whole grain sorghum. Other healthy ingredients are lamb and fish oil. There is a minimum of 12% protein in this vet prescribed food and a maximum of 0.5% phosphorus. Owners have seen great improvements in their dogs’ overall health and vitality after switching to this kidney diet.
DIY Low-Phosphorus Dog Food Recipe
Depending on your dog’s condition it may be possible to feed them a homemade diet. Some owners prefer this method because they know exactly what is going into their dog’s food and they can include healthy, whole ingredients. It’s important to make sure your dog’s diet is complete if you choose this path.
After a lot of research, dog lover Dale Schierbeck shared a recipe that he and his vet came up with for his 18 year old dog Ben, who was suffering from chronic renal failure. Several people have used this recipe since and independently verified that it is appropriate for dogs with kidney problems. The total preparation time is 90 minutes and the recipe makes 10 – 12 days of food for a 25 lb dog.
You can check out the recipe and learn more about the story behind it here.
If you are a visual person, here's a video for another DIY homemade dog food for kidney disease from our friends over at TopDogTips.
Before switching your dog’s food you check with your vet! If your dog has been diagnosed with early or chronic renal disease it’s important to follow the diet the vet prescribes. If you really want to feed homemade your vet can help make sure you are including the vitamins and supplements your dog needs.
Complications from kidney disease can be fatal, which is why as a dog owner it’s a grim diagnosis to hear. The good news is that with early detection and dietary changes, you can lengthen your dog’s life and improve their quality of life at the same time.
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