It’s scary having your dog diagnosed with kidney disease. Unfortunately, the disease isn’t reversible, but it is manageable, meaning your dog is able to live a normal life if they get the care and diet they need. What your dog eats is going to be incredibly important when they have renal issues, so knowing what’s good for your dog’s new lifestyle will add years to their life.
The Basics of a Canine Kidney Disease Diet
Protein is a pretty important aspect of your dog’s diet when their kidneys aren’t functioning properly. You truly won’t know the best diet for them unless you have a copy of their current bloodwork letting you know exactly how their kidneys are functioning.
Many sources insist that kidney disease requires a low protein diet, but newer research has shown this isn’t always true. The only time your dog will benefit (i.e. feel/function better) from a low protein diet is when they are uremic or their blood urea nitrogen levels are high. When these levels are high, they’re usually exhibiting signs of high BUN like vomiting, lethargy, lack of appetite, and ulcers. You’ll know if your dog’s BUN is excessively high with their bloodwork, again stressing the importance of regular blood tests.
In most other cases of kidney disease, your dog will benefit from a moderate amount of high-quality protein. This means the ideal protein probably won’t come from chicken, and you should consider a higher quality food or a food designed especially for dogs with renal disease.
Research shows low phosphorous diets slow kidney disease progression. The ideal amount of phosphorous shouldn’t exceed 22.25 mg/day in animals with advanced kidney failure. However, dogs in the early stages of kidney disease can have anywhere from 15 to 40 mg/day (or 30mg/lb). This is where choosing the ideal food gets tricky. Foods naturally high in phosphorous are found in fairly significant quantities in some brands of dog food. These include bones, fish (with bones), organ meats, and egg yolks. Unfortunately, these items also have other nutrients and vitamins essential for their health, so it truly becomes a balancing game in what your dog should and shouldn’t have on a daily basis.
Sources of fat give your dog low-phosphorous calories, so a diet healthy in quality fats is excellent for any stage of renal disease. This doesn’t mean you can give your dog bacon fat or other fatty foods on a regular basis, however. Dogs with kidney disease are more prone to getting pancreatitis (a painful inflammation of the pancreas), and a very high-fat diet could prove to be detrimental over time. If you aren’t sure of a good balance, consult with your vet or a canine nutritionist for the best recommendation.
Best Dog Foods for Kidney Disease
Before you settle on a food, talk to your veterinarian about what’s best suited for your dog’s current health and blood work. In general, though, you want a food low in phosphorous and moderate in fat and protein. There are prescription diets that could fit your dog’s new dietary needs to a T, but if they’re out of the budget or ill-suited to them, you can purchase “over the counter” foods that won’t progress their kidney disease.
The following list of foods with less than 0.6% phosphorous. They aren’t as high quality as a prescription diet, but if budget is a concern (and it often is because kidney disease becomes expensive), these should be suitable choices. As always, run the nutritional label by your veterinarian first.
- Hill’s Science Diet Adult Light dry, canned, and Small Bites dry)
- Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Weight Management
- Hill’s Science Diet Mature Adult Active Longevity (dry) and Gourmet Beef and Savory Chicken (canned)
These foods have between 0.6 and 0.7% phosphorous, so feed these diets with more caution than the others.
- Nutro Natural Choice Lite and Natural Choice Herring Meal, Rice & Potato Formula
- Royal Canin LA23, Maxi, Medium and Mini Adult 2
- Hill’s Science Diet Adult Advanced Fitness Original Dry
Veterinarians are your best source for deciding what brand/type of food is ideal for your dog. Homemade diets may seem like a good idea because you can balance their phosphorous/protein/fats, but it’s impossible to ensure they’re getting the rest of their vitamins and minerals with homemade food. Stick to commercially produced foods for overall health, not just kidney health.