Dog Food With Kidney Problems


Dog Food With Kidney Problems Kidney disease is one of the major reasons for declining health in dogs. The number of kidney failure cases grows annually, making it as much as a serious illness. One of the most common issues with feeding your dog a raw diet is that you need to be able to manage the grains and carbohydrates. You should also use ingredients that have high levels of protein, which are easier to digest for your animal.

Dog Food With Kidney Problems

If you have a dog who has kidney disease, you have probably been told that your pet may still live a long and happy life.

You’re probably also keenly aware that what your dog eats has never been more important.

It can be scary at first, knowing that you can no longer casually feed your dog table scraps (OK, not a good idea, even with a healthy dog), and that you need to really think about his diet in a way that perhaps you hadn’t before. But if you’re unnerved, it may be because you haven’t yet fallen into a routine. Feeding a dog with kidney disease isn’t always hard, but you and your pet may need to make some lifestyle changes.

Best Foods for a Dog with Kidney Disease
The good news, especially for the overwhelmed pet parent, is that you probably won’t have to get too deep into the weeds to figure out the feeding process. There are dog food brands on store shelves that are formulated for dogs with kidney disease and dog brands that are available by prescription, so you don’t have to set up a corner of your kitchen for food prep, where you’ll be making special doggie meals. You can do that, of course, but you and your veterinarian may decide that you don’t need to.

Still, whatever approach you and your vet decide on, one thing is clear:

“The goal is always going to be high quality foods with low protein. High quality protein but low protein,” says Dr. Julie Bailey, a veterinarian and a professor and dean of Becker College’s School of Animal Studies in Leicester, Massachusetts.

Why is that important?

The kidneys’ job is to rid the body of toxins, Bailey says, so when the proteins break down, you don’t want there to be an excess of it.

Low phosphorus levels are also important, Dr. Bailey adds.

Phosphorus is an essential mineral, but too much of it can lead to hyperphosphatemia, an electrolyte disturbance in which abnormally elevated levels of phosphate appear in the dog’s blood.

Moist Foods Are Good for a Dog with Kidney Disease
An internet article about how the word “moist” is the worst word ever went viral, getting four million views, but whether you hate that word or not, “moist” is a useful word to remember when feeding a dog with kidney disease.

After all, kidneys are all about water. Water helps everyone’s kidneys remove waste from the blood, coming out of the body as urine.

“When a dog is having kidney failure, it’s vital that his food is moist to provide much-needed hydration,” says Dr. Patrick Mahaney, a holistic veterinarian based out of Los Angeles. He owns California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness and provides holistic treatment for cancer patients at the Veterinary Cancer Group.

“In kidney failure, the body is not properly excreting toxins through the kidneys,” Dr. Mahaney says. “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.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to buy canned brands of dog food that are formulated for kidney disease, or that you should stay away from dry dog food brands formulated for kidney disease.

Talk to your veterinarian, Dr. Mahaney says, but he adds that he would be wary of dog foods that have too much sugar or, especially, propylene glycol (PG), an additive found in many pet foods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration labels it as safe for pets, as Dr. Mahaney admits, but he isn’t a fan of it and says, “Frequent ingestion of foods and treats having PG won’t improve his overall health.”

Dr. Mahaney also recommends that protein sources be “highly bioavailable, which means that the nutrients are readily absorbed and cause minimal stress on the body in the digestive process.

Ideally, Dr. Mahaney says, you would be feeding your dog “fresh, cooked, moisture-rich, lean protein sources, including chicken or turkey breast, or defatted beef.”

Dog Treats for Dogs with Kidney Disease
If you want a healthy pet treat to give to your dog with kidney disease, an occasional carrot can be good for them, Dr. Bailey says. “Green beans can be good sometimes, too,” she adds.

The main reasons behind those foods are that carrots are low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins. Green beans have vitamins, too, as well as iron.

But don’t just start feeding your dog random fruits and vegetables, Dr. Bailey warns. “Grapes and raisins are toxic,” she said.

In fact, those fruits can actually cause kidney failure in dogs.

Preparing Meals for a Dog with Kidney Disease
Whatever you and your veterinarian decide to go with, whether canned or dry dog food, or fresh and cooked meats, the hardest thing about having a dog with kidney disease is often not what to fix but to make sure your dog is eating regularly, Dr. Bailey says.

“Dogs with kidney disease tend to have trouble keeping weight on,” Dr. Bailey says “They tend to not have a great appetite, so I would lean towards feeding your dog a few times a day.”

She adds that you’ll also want to make sure your dog has easy access to water. That’s vital for all dogs, of course, not to mention all living creatures, but especially so if your dog has kidney disease.

If your dog has not been diagnosed with it, it may be hard for you to know for sure whether your dog has kidney disease. But at least at feeding times and every time you fill the water bowl you can feel good knowing that you’re making a difference in your dog’s quality of life and possibly extending his or her lifetime by years.

“As a general statement, a lot of what you do at home has a very good chance of extending your dog’s life,” Dr. Bailey says.

“We can only make the recommendations. What you do at home definitely matters in this case. It’s kind of like going to your cardiologist. They tell you to go on certain medications, and it’s your decision whether you do it or not,” she says. “Your pet’s health is to some extent in your hands, so you want to make sure you make good choices.”

Best diet for dogs with kidney disease

Treatment for your dog’s kidney disease will be based upon the severity of your dogs case, your dog’s age, and your pup’s overall health. In most cases, treatment for kidney disease includes a combination of dietary restrictions and medications. The therapeutic diet is designed to help slow the progression of the disease and help to reduce the workload placed on your dog’s kidneys, whereas the medications are primarily aimed at reducing the symptoms of the disease.

Therapeutic Diet for Dogs with Chronic Kidney Disease
Therapeutic diets for dogs suffering from chronic kidney disease typically contain reduced amounts of protein, phosphorus and sodium combined with increased amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

Reduced Protein
Although reducing the amount of protein in a dog’s diet remains controversial, there are two main goals behind this approach. Since the kidneys are responsible for filtering out the waste produced as the body metabolizes protein, the first goal of a reduced protein diet is to help lower the amount of waste produced, and the second goal is to minimize the amount of protein entering the filtration system of the kidneys.

What this means is that feeding your dog a diet with reduced levels of protein may help to reduce the workload placed on your dog’s kidneys, in turn helping to preserve kidney function.

Reduced Phosphorus
As your pup’s kidneys begin to fail, the concentration of phosphorus in their blood becomes elevated. Elevated concentrations of phosphorus have been linked to a number of negative side effects such as vitamin D deficiency, and reduced ability for your dog’s body to metabolize calcium. Normalizing blood phosphorus concentrations through diet may help to slow the progression of the disease in dogs with chronic kidney disease.

One important thing to note is that the phosphorus level in dog foods is directly related to the amount of protein in the food. In order to reduce the phosphorus in your dog’s diet it will be necessary to also restrict their protein intake. It is also important to know that normalizing your dog’s blood phosphorus levels through diet alone is typically only successful if the kidney disease is diagnosed and treated early, medications will also be necessary in more progressed stages of the disease.

Reduced Sodium
Reducing sodium in the diet of dogs with chronic kidney disease can also be beneficial. Reducing sodium can help to reduce the workload on your pup’s kidneys, as well as helping your dog to maintain normal blood pressure. If your dog is on a reduced sodium diet, be sure to pay extra attention to their treats as well as their food. Many of the treats dogs love, such as jerky and cheese slices, are very high in sodium.

Increased Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help slow the progression of chronic kidney disease by reducing the production of inflammatory compounds that create oxidative stress to the dog’s kidneys. Many of the foods with increased levels of omega-3 contain salmon and other fish which many dogs enjoy, or may be supplemented with fish oil, or flaxseed oil.

The Best Food to Feed a Dog with Chronic Kidney Disease
If your dog has chronic kidney disease your vet will be sure to recommend the best food to help your pup fight the progression of this chronic disease. Every dog is different, and the food recommended for your dog will depend on the severity of the disease, how far it has progressed, as well as your dog’s age and overall health.

Standard dog foods often contain levels of protein and phosphorus that are too high for dogs with chronic kidney disease, however there are a number of prescription therapeutic foods available from your vet. Prescription diets have been specially formulated to meet all of your dog’s dietary requirements while also offering restricted protein, phosphorus and sodium. Speak to your veterinarian about which food is best for your dog.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Supporting Your Dog’s Kidney Health

The healthy functioning of your dog’s kidneys is essential to them living a healthy life. For some dogs however, their kidneys may begin to fail, leading to permanent damage. This damage to the kidneys can result in chronic kidney disease (CKD). It can be difficult to know the signs to look out for, however if veterinarian support and advice is sought early, you can help your dog have a good quality of life.

The role of your dog’s kidneys

The kidneys act as a filtering system removing toxins and waste from blood. Nephrons within the kidney are the actual filtering units. The filtered waste and toxins are then sent to the bladder to leave the body in the form of urine. Everything that remains returns to the bloodstream.

What Is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease occurs when the function of the kidneys deteriorate and can no longer properly filter toxins and waste. An impaired kidney can be caused by a reduction in the number of working filtering units, called nephrons. When there aren’t enough functioning filtering units important compounds are removed and waste begins to accumulate in the bloodstream.

Difficulty Spotting the Early Signs of Chronic Kidney Disease in Dogs

Chronic kidney disease is typically very difficult to spot, particularly during the early stages of the disease. Regular checkups at your veterinarian can help identify CKD earlier.

Even when the kidneys’ filtering function has diminished, they’re still able to filter a large volume of blood, so signs that something is not working correctly may not become apparent until there’s already been a significant amount of damage to the kidneys. Typically the clinical signs of chronic kidney disease do not appear until 75% of kidney function is lost.1

Signs of kidney disease in dogs

Common signs of kidney disease are usually difficult to spot during the early stages. As the disease progresses the signs will become more noticeable, but the earlier you are able to alert your veterinarian to potential signs, the earlier CKD can be diagnosed.

Loss of body water can lead to dehydration

Increased urination – If your dog’s kidneys aren’t functioning properly, they’ll lose more body water through frequent urination.

 – An increase in urination can lead to dehydration, so keep an eye out if your dog starts drinking more water than usual.

Increased levels of waste can cause a loss of appetite

Decrease in appetite – Your dog may begin to feel nauseous due to the increase in waste in their bloodstream which can result in them eating less food.
Weight loss – If your dog does experience a decrease in appetite, they may eat less food than usual which can result in weight loss for some dogs. 
Lethargy – A lack of calories and nutrients may also lead to a noticeable decrease in energy.

Once the amount of toxins and waste in their bloodstream has significantly increased, it is likely to have a detrimental effect on other organs, such as the stomach.

Can you spot the common signs?

Knowing when to take your dog to a veterinarian is important. If a veterinarian can diagnose chronic kidney disease early, this will help ensure your dog receives treatment as soon as possible.Learn more about common signs

Nutritional adjustments veterinarians may recommend

Often as a first step, your veterinarian may recommend changes to your dog’s diet. Key nutrients will often be increased or decreased in their diet depending on specific nutritional requirements. 

Here are some of the key nutrients your veterinarian may consider when recommending a renal diet:


A significant phosphorus restriction is recommended in Stage 2 by IRIS.2


Veterinarians may recommend protein restriction at early stages of CKD to help reduce nitrogenous waste products which contribute to clinical signs of renal disease.3


Some studies have shown that antioxidants can be beneficial in supporting kidney function.4

How could your dog’s diet change?

Benefits of a renal diet for dogs

Chronic Kidney Disease is irreversible but can often be managed through appropriate management, including a change in diet, when recommended by a veterinarian. Renal diets will vary depending on your dog’s diagnosis and current stage of Chronic Kidney Disease and may also change as the disease progresses.

Nausea and lack of appetite are common in dogs diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease so most tailored renal diets are made with palatable textures and aromas to encourage eating at mealtimes.

Kidney Failure in Dogs

7 min read

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Kidneys are very busy organs that have lots of responsibilities to keep your dog healthy, from removing toxins to maintaining their blood pressure and helping to create new red blood cells. With so many jobs to do, it can be a scary time if you think your dog’s kidneys are failing, find out the common symptoms and possible treatment options for kidney failure in dogs with this guide.

Kidney disease in dogs can affect any breed at any stage in their life and sadly, there’s no way of predicting which will develop it and which won’t. Although there’s nothing you can do to actually prevent your four-legged friend from developing kidney failure in dogs, feeding them a good quality diet throughout their life, and providing them with a constant supply of fresh, clean water will help support their kidneys and, if they do develop kidney failure, it could help to slow down its progress.

We’ve created this guide to tell you the most common causes of dog kidney disease and failure to give you all the information you need.

Acute kidney failure in dogs

If your dog has acute kidney failure it means that their kidneys have suddenly stopped working properly. This can be caused by something such as an illness or infection, or because they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t, like antifreeze. Acute kidney failure in dogs may be able to be treated and reversed but could also be permanent, depending on what has caused it.

Chronic kidney failure in dogs

Chronic kidney failure is more gradual and can take months or even years to develop. It can be caused by a number of things including infections and tumours and unfortunately, by the time it’s diagnosed, it’s sometimes too late to reverse.

In the early stages of disease, the healthy areas of the kidney take on the extra work that the damaged areas can’t do, meaning that healthy parts work even harder than usual. As the disease progresses, and the unhealthy areas start to outnumber the healthy, the workload simply becomes too much and your dog will show signs of kidney failure.

Chronic kidney failure in dogs is a progressive illness that your vet will need to keep an eye on, but it can usually be managed with a combination of medical treatments and a special diet.

Signs of kidney failure in dogs

There are a number of possible signs of kidney failure in dogs and each dog is different so there’s no guarantee that they’ll experience the illness in the same way, however, the most common symptoms are as follows:

  • Urinating more often – urine will usually be very diluted
  • Increased drinking to replace lost fluids
  • Nausea and vomiting due to build-up of toxins
  • Retching or going off their food
  • Tiredness and lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Pale gums
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Fragile, weak bones

Be careful about trying to diagnose kidney disease yourself, as the signs of kidney disease in dogs can also be a symptom of other illnesses. The sooner you see your vet for a proper diagnosis, the better. Although there’s no cure for kidney disease, early treatment will help to relieve the discomfort caused by the symptoms and support your pet’s kidneys.

Diagnosing kidney disease in dogs

When diagnosing kidney disease in dogs, your vet will start by testing a sample of pee to see if your dog’s urine is being concentrated, whether protein is being lost in their urine and if they have any other problems, like an underlying infection. They might also take a blood test to check for specific kidney function, to get an idea of your dog’s overall health and to see if the build-up of toxins has affected any of their other organs.

Monitoring the condition

Your vet may ask you to collect a sample of your dog’s urine as a part of monitoring their condition. The best time to collect your dog’s urine sample is first thing in the morning, ideally in mid-flow. How you physically collect their pee will depend on whether you have a male or female dog but plastic lunchboxes or soup ladles can come in handy! Your vet will probably provide you with a sterile container to store your sample in or you can use a container such as a clean jam jar (any residue can affect the results, so do make sure the container is very clean).

The fresher the sample, the more accurate the tests will be, so try not to delay in getting the sample to your vet.

Dog kidney failure treatment

Depending on how severe the symptoms are, dog kidney failure treatment usually consists of a combination of medical and dietary interventions.


As kidney failure in dogs can impact so many different bodily functions and cause them to develop conditions such as high blood pressure or anaemia, your vet might recommend specific medications to help treat each symptom. Supplements may also be suggested to replace lost vitamins and help to improve some secondary effects caused by the disease. It’s important to remember to only give supplements and medications at the recommendation of your vet.

Diets for dogs with kidney failure

Brown Spaniel with red collar and tongue out.

A special diet can reduce signs of kidney failure in dogs and slow the progress of the disease. Your vet may suggest a carefully balanced prescription kidney diet for dogs.

This food will have been formulated to meet your dog’s special needs and should always be your first choice if recommended.

Unfortunately, these special diets aren’t always the tastiest as they’re made to very strict recipes, so your dog might not guzzle it up with as much gusto as they do with their usual food. Bear in mind that a dog’s sense of smell and taste is around 200,000 times more sensitive than ours, so they’re bound to notice the difference! That said, don’t give up on your prescription diet just because your dog seems disinterested at first – with a bit of perseverance, they’ll come around in the end.

Introduce their new diet slowly

When feeding a dog with kidney problems, take things slowly, introducing their new diet gradually so they can learn to adapt to the blander flavours and different textures. Unless your vet says otherwise, start by blending a little of the new diet thoroughly into your dog’s original food. Then, each day, increase the quantity of the new diet by very small amounts, reducing the amount of their original diet proportionately. Ask your vet about portion sizes for the prescription diet, or use the guidelines on the packaging, because it won’t necessarily be the same as you’re used to feeding your dog.

Feed little and often

While your dog’s getting used to their new feeding routine try offering them smaller meals more regularly rather than one or two larger meals. You’ll need to avoid giving them treats when they’re on their special diet anyway, so more regular feeding might help fill those gaps.

Warm their food up to make it more palatable

You can also try to make their new diet more palatable by slightly warming wet food in a microwave to release aromas and soften its texture. If your dog is used to wet food but the prescription diet is dry, try soaking the kibbles briefly in warm water to soften them.

The changeover process can take anything from two to six weeks to complete, but it’s worth the extra time and effort to keep your furry friend as fit and healthy as possible. With a good quality diet and plenty of water, you and your dog should be able to carry on enjoying a healthy, happy life together.

That’s our guide to kidney failure in dogs and the current treatment options available. Want to find out more about symptoms to watch out for in dogs? Read our guide on kennel cough and how to treat it, next.

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