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Canine Diet for Kidney Disease: Approved by Vet

Kidney disease in dogs, also called renal disease, can affect as many as 10% of the canine population. If the kidneys aren't working well, they cannot filter toxins, leading to a buildup of harmful substances in the body. Several medications may be needed to treat kidney disease, but one of the most important things you can do is feed a kidney diet for dogs. In this article, we will cover how to support a dog with kidney problems, including changing their diet.

Understanding canine renal failure symptoms

It is essential to understand kidney disease before making dietary changes. There are two types: acute and chronic. Acute kidney disease comes on suddenly, can happen at any age, and is often the result of some sudden insult to the kidneys, such as poisons, trauma, or infection. Chronic kidney disease usually comes on more gradually and may happen due to degenerative changes in older dogs.

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Every dog lover should ensure they know the symptoms of kidney failure in pups. One of the first things you may notice is that your dog is drinking and urinating more than usual. Other symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath
  • Pale gums
  • Ulcers in the mouth in severe or late-stage disease

Understanding dog renal failure symptoms is essential. If you notice any of these symptoms, please make an appointment with your vet immediately. Getting your dog's help right away is vital, especially if it's battling something as severe as acute kidney disease.

Diagnosis of kidney disease in dogs

Fortunately, kidney disease is relatively easy to diagnose. Blood work usually reveals changes determining whether your dog's kidneys are in trouble. Analyzing urine can also offer some essential hints. If the diagnosis is confirmed, your vet will most likely try to discover the source of the problem.

Cultures of the urine may be analyzed to look for an infection. X-rays may also be performed to look for bladder or kidney stones and check the kidneys' size. Abdominal ultrasound can provide changes in kidney size, shape, or architecture.

Small kidneys usually indicate chronic disease. Large kidneys can indicate infection, cancer, polycystic kidney disease, and other conditions. Your dog's blood pressure will be checked to determine if blood pressure medication is needed, which is common with dog kidney disease. The veterinarian may recommend additional testing based on your pet's individual case.

Does pet insurance cover canine disease treatment?

If you have pet insurance, illness and accident plans (also known as comprehensive) may cover the diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease as long as the condition was not pre-existing at the time of enrollment or occurred during the waiting period. The amount of coverage depends on your plan.

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Accident-only may cover your kidney expenses if the cause was an accident such as a car accident. Wellness will not cover illnesses such as renal disease. You must check with your provider to determine precisely what your policy covers.

Managing kidney issues in dogs

Depending on the severity of the blood results, your dog may need to be hospitalized for a few days on IV fluids and medications to stabilize. Less severe disease may mean your dog can go home and start treatment there. Some dogs may need life-long medications. Fluids can be given at home; your vet will show you how. However, your dog's diet may be the most important part of kidney disease treatment.

Your veterinarian may also recommend holistic therapies aimed at slowing progression of disease and helping your dog with pain. Many pet owners consult with holistic veterinarians as an adjunct to conventional treatment, frequently providing some improvement. It won't cure kidney disease, but it can slow down the progression and make your dog more comfortable.

What is a kidney diet for dogs?

Dogs with kidney disease should not eat a regular canine diet. They should eat a diet created for dogs with renal disease, low-protein dog food for kidney disease. Prescription diets commercially available with a prescription from your vet are the most commonly recommended option for dogs with kidney disease. On the other hand, some pet parents cook a homemade kidney diet for dogs. You should consult with a veterinary nutritionist to ensure they are complete and balanced. In either case, the diet should follow these renal diet tips for dogs.

Low-protein diet

It used to be believed that dogs in kidney failure need to eat low-protein dog food. The more current opinion is that they can eat a moderate-protein diet if the protein is high quality. If the protein levels are too high or contain low-quality proteins, they may be too difficult for the kidneys to process. So, what are top-notch protein sources?

  • Lean meats such as chicken, turkey, and beef
  • Eggs
  • Fish (in moderation)

Limiting phosphorus

Phosphorus is a mineral. It is naturally contained in lots of foods we eat. When the kidneys aren't working well, phosphorus can accumulate in the bloodstream. Feeding your dog low-phosphorus dog food is often necessary for kidney disease. High-phosphorus foods include organ meats, dairy products, and certain grains.

Low-phosphorus foods include white rice, pasta, fruits and vegetables such as apples, carrots, and green beans, and the commercially available prescription diets for kidney disease in dogs. In addition to a low-phosphorus dog food for kidney disease, your dog may need phosphate binders. Phosphate binders are used to decrease the absorption of phosphate from food in the digestive tract if the diet alone isn't doing it. They can be over-the-counter or by prescription only. Even if you get them over-the-counter, you should consult with your veterinarian because there are various types and your vet will guide you on type and dosage.

Controlled sodium intake

Increased blood pressure and fluid retention are often present in kidney disease, and reducing sodium levels can help avoid those conditions. Avoid salt and feed low-sodium versions of food whenever possible. Even after implementing these mindful dietary changes, there remains a potential necessity for medicinal intervention to regulate your canine companion's blood pressure.

Increased water consumption

Ensuring your dog drinks enough water to support kidney function and prevent dehydration is vital. You can help by providing fresh water, adding water to dry food, feeding canned food, or adding flavor additives or low-salt broth to the water to encourage more drinking. A well-hydrated dog may experience a slowing of the progression of kidney disease, keeping your dog more comfortable and increasing urination, which can help flush out bacteria in dogs with infections and toxins.


Kidney disease can lower the potassium level in a dog. Your vet can measure potassium with a blood test. It is important to keep potassium neither too high nor too low. Your vet can prescribe potassium supplements for your dog. It is essential to give the exact dosage your vet prescribes.

Nutritional supplements

In addition to a balanced diet, many veterinarians believe certain nutritional supplements may help with kidney disease. Common supplements include:

  • Omega-3. Fatty acids can reduce inflammation and help support the kidneys.
  • B vitamins. The need for B vitamins can be increased in dogs with kidney disease, so giving your dog a supplement may be required.
  • Antioxidants. Vitamin E and vitamin C can help protect against oxidative damage.

Regular monitoring

It is essential to schedule regular visits with your vet to monitor kidney function and blood pressure. Blood values can change as kidney disease progresses, and a diet or medications may need to be changed. Monitoring kidney disease is the same for acute and chronic disease. In addition to having regular exams by your vet, there's a lot of monitoring you can do at home. Keep a close eye on thirst, urination, appetite, and attitude.

Commercial kidney-friendly dog foods

As mentioned, your dog's diet can be homemade or purchased with a vet's prescription. The prescription diets have been designed to reduce protein, include high-quality protein, reduce phosphorus and sodium, increase potassium, and possibly add vitamins and fatty acids. With your vet's or nutritionist's aid, you can find a homemade diet that will do the same. Both homemade and commercial kidney diets have their benefits. The best choice depends on the owner's preferences and the dog's needs.

Dietary components in typical therapeutic renal diets

The following table shows what a typical prescription kidney diet includes regarding the most essential nutrients.

Component Therapeutic renal dietsAAFCO minimum
Protein g/1,000 kcal 25–55 45
Phosphorus g/1,000 kcal 0.4–1.2 1
Sodium g/1,000 kcal 0.4–1.2 0.2
Potassium g/1,000 kcal 0.8–2.1 1.5
EPA + DHA 32–1,200 n/a

What is the best homemade diet for dogs with kidney disease?

It is best to consult your veterinarian to develop a kidney diet that meets your dog's needs. Your vet may give you sample recipes based on your dog's condition and weight or refer you to a website like BalanceIT.com. On this site, you'll find meal plans by pet nutrition professionals. With their help, you can design a complete and balanced diet specialized for your dog's additional needs. Consulting with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to develop your pet's plan is best. It is harmful to pets to feed a homemade diet that you haven't ensured is complete and balanced.

Importance of portion control

Instead of free-feeding, divide your dog's daily food allowance into several small meals throughout the day. Doing this ensures a constant flow of nutrients and keeps blood urea nitrogen levels, or BUN, from shooting up suddenly. When you've got a dog dealing with kidney issues, getting expert advice is essential. Work with your veterinarian or pet nutritionist to ensure your dog has the proper diet. Some general guidelines can help you get started.

  • By controlling portion sizes, the amount of waste products that need to be filtered by the kidneys is decreased.
  • Feeding too much at once can lead to ingesting too much phosphorus and other nutrients at once, which is harder on the kidneys.
  • Portion control helps keep weight off; obesity causes additional strain on the kidneys.

Sample meal plan:

  • Morning: 1/4 cup of renal diet kibble (prescription diet; can have water low-sodium broth added)
  • Midday: 1/4 cup of renal kibble or wet food
  • Afternoon: 1/4 cup of renal diet wet food
  • Evening: 1/4 cup of renal kibble

This diet is recommended by consulting your veterinarian or nutritionist, who will consider your dog's weight and health and determine if additional supplements are needed. This diet is an example of what portion control would look like.

Monitoring canine renal failure symptoms

The only way to ascertain if your dog's diet controls or improves kidney disease or needs adjustments is to see your vet regularly and do blood work. Additionally, by vigilantly tracking the progression of your canine's symptoms, you become an essential part of their health management team. Compare present vomiting, amounts of water consumed, amount of urine produced, lethargy, and appetite with those symptoms when your dog was diagnosed to see if they are better.

Caring for your dog with kidney disease requires many aspects of treatment, with diet playing an essential role. By purchasing or cooking a kidney-friendly diet that is right for your dog's needs, you can help support renal function, slow down the progress of the disease, and improve your dog's overall well-being.


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