Renal Diet for Dogs - The Ideal Diet For Dogs With Kidney Problems

There is no single best recipe for a renal diet. It depends on the stage of kidney disease present in the dog.

For the early stages of the illness, prescription kidney diets may be too strict and might lead to malnourishment and muscle loss. For advanced stages, certain dietary modifications have been proven to help pets live longer.

That is why it is important to pinpoint the nature and severity of your dog’s kidney condition before putting it on a specific diet. Nevertheless, dogs diagnosed with this problem have seen overall positive improvements when their diet is addressed in the correct way. 

Best renal dog food

The kidneys’ job is to filter blood for toxins, control the body’s fluid balance and keep the right levels of electrolytes. Kidney failure causes a disruption in the organ’s functions thereby making the dog feel ill and urinate a lot.

The best diets for such dogs should take into account specific needs caused by the disease. Recommendations from leading experts say that the ideal diet should fulfil the following:

  • Increased moisture
  • Moderate to high protein
  • Moderate to high fat
  • High quality protein
  • Low phosphorus
  • Better palatability

Increased moisture

According to Dr. Patrick Mahaney, a holistic veterinarian in Los Angeles who provides holistic treatment for cancer patients at the Veterinary Cancer Group, the body is not properly excreting toxins through the kidneys thereby causing renal problems.

As a result, more moisture is needed to flush out nitrogen, creatinine, phosphorus and other metabolic wastes from the body. His primary recommendation is for the ailing dog to go on a diet that is moistened by water or low-sodium, and free from vegetables of the onion and garlic varieties.

Kidney disease can increase your dog’s thirst, so make sure it always has access to clean, fresh water at all times. Some dogs don’t like to drink water so giving them moist or wet food can help to keep them more hydrated.

Raw dog food, gently cooked meals and wet canned food have very high moisture content. Generally, at least 60% of these foods consist of water.

To trick your dog into drinking more water, you can add small quantities of its favourite liquid foods such as watermelon juice or meat broth into the drinking water. The ratio should be 70% water and 30% liquid addition.

Try to give them this liquid fix in small portions a few times a day. This will ensure they are hydrated over 24 hours.

In the worst case scenario, a severely dehydrated dog may need to be treated with intravenous fluid. Your veterinarian will be the best judge of when this needs to be implemented.

Moderate to high protein

Most American veterinarians prescribe a low-protein diet for all dogs with kidney disease. They believe that protein harms the kidneys and that reducing protein consumption slows the progress of kidney degeneration.

This was based on early research done on rats. Rats are omnivores but dogs are carnivores.  That is why in 1975, the theory of low-protein diets for dogs was debunked by David Kronfeld, PhD, who was at the time a veterinary researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr Kronfeld’s advice was to feed higher-quality protein as low-quality protein can harm a dog’s kidneys. Thus, the solution was to discontinue feeding inferior-quality ingredients. Studies disproving the prevalent low-protein prescription have been widely published in veterinary journals and textbooks.

Feedback from dog owners is that kidney disease prescription food is not very palatable. Some dogs with the ailment eat only enough of it to survive, or stop eating entirely if that is all they are fed.

This is not a good thing. When protein levels are very low, the body will cannibalize itself to get the protein it needs. Furthermore, older dogs actually need 50% more protein to maintain their body stores of protein than do younger adult dogs.

In an article published in Veterinary Nutritionist, Dr. Schenck wrote, “Reducing dietary protein in older pets may have adverse effects. As pets age, their ability to utilize nutrients decreases. The only time dietary protein restriction is appropriate in renal failure is when the disease has become severe.”

“Protein restriction can result in impaired wound healing, diminished immune function, and lowered enzyme activities and cellular turnover. Dogs with impaired renal function do better with dietary phosphorus restrictions,” says canine health writers Susan Thorpe-Vargas, PhD, and John C. Cargill, MA. 

Depending on the quality of the protein, it should make up 20 to 30 percent of total calories ingested.

A really low-protein diet is not considered beneficial, as it can also lead to hypoalbuminemia. It is best to feed at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily. The grams of protein must be calculated from a nutritional analysis. It is NOT the same as grams of meat.

Based on research done in the last ten years, the only time it is necessary to feed a low protein diet is when a dog is uremic.  This generally means its BUN reading is over 80 mg/dL (equivalent to 28.6 mmol/L), creatinine is over 4.0 mg/dL (equivalent to 354 µmol/L), and the dog is showing symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, inappetence, ulcers and lethargy (caused by the build-up of nitrogen in the blood).

If a dog is not uremic, the consensus seems to be to feed it a moderate amount of very high quality protein. The older the dog, the more high quality protein it needs to consume. Raw or lightly cooked meat is a high quality source of protein. 

Moderate to High Fat

Fat provides low-phosphorus calories, and so can be used to increase caloric intake without increasing phosphorus levels in the diet. Dogs usually don’t suffer from high cholesterol or other human problems associated with high fat intake.

If your dog is overweight or relatively inactive, you can feed it moderate amounts of fat. If your dog is quite active, you can increase the amount of fat to provide more calories without increasing phosphorus.

Too much fat may lead to diarrhea or slimy stools, and dogs that are prone to pancreatitis cannot handle too much fat. If fat is reduced, carbohydrates will have to be increased to provide low-phosphorus calories.

Increase the amount of fat you feed gradually to avoid digestive upset and the possibility of pancreatitis. Decrease the amount of fat to a level your dog can tolerate if your dog looks uncomfortable after meals, and shows other signs such as loose stools, loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea. 

What is high quality protein?

High quality proteins are those that closely match the proper mix of amino acids the dog’s body needs. Generally, animal source proteins, such as meat, milk and eggs are higher quality proteins as compared to plant source proteins.

Some amino acids, such as taurine, are sensitive to heat, which is one of the reasons why raw meat is considered as higher quality than cooked meat.

The lowest quality protein comes from grains.

Low phosphorus

Feeding a low phosphorus diet has been shown to slow the progression of kidney disease. Your veterinarian will monitor potassium concentrations in the blood and will adjust intake accordingly. Some animals require the addition of extra potassium to their diets to maintain normal blood concentrations.

In general, foods highest in phosphorus include bones, dairy products, fish (with bones), organ meats and egg yolks. That does not mean you should stop feeding these foods entirely as they are an important component of a healthy diet, but they should be fed in moderation. 

Be wary also of the amount of phosphorus in grains and vegetables that you feed. Whole wheat, oatmeal, brown rice, millet and other whole grains are moderately high in phosphorus. White rice is low in phosphorus. Be sure to cook all grains.

Here is a rough guide of foods that are high in phosphorus content which should be avoided. 

Is green tripe good for dogs with kidney disease?

Green tripe is the raw, unprocessed stomachs of cud-chewing animals like cows, goats or sheep. Supermarket tripe is white because it has been bleached and deodorized, which destroys fragile nutrients.

Green tripe contains easily digestible protein, beneficial bacteria, abundant enzymes, and relatively low phosphorus levels. Its rich chlorophyll content is good for detoxifying your dog’s blood and lymph systems.

When the lymphatic system is free of toxins, dogs enjoy stronger immune responses to invading pathogens and increased energy due to lymph fluid promoting absorption of digested fats in the intestines.

Raw green tripe is considered by veterinarians and canine experts to be one of the most nutritional foods available for dogs. It contains the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 (linolenic and linoleic acids), proteins, fats and an ideal phosphorus to calcium ratio necessary to facilitate absorption of either nutrient.

Never cook raw green tripe. Heating tripe will destroy the beneficial digestive enzymes found in tripe.

Are eggs good for dogs with kidney disease?

Eggs are a great source of protein for dogs, but make sure they are cooked. For dogs with kidney failure, this protein should be fed in moderation and with care as the yolk has high amounts of phosphorus.

Unless your vet tells you that an occasional egg is okay to feed your dog, it is best to avoid giving eggs to dogs with kidney disease, to be on the safe side. The egg whites, however, are safe for them. 

Are carrots good for dogs with kidney disease?

Strangely enough, giving your dog carrots to chew on is actually recommended. Carrots are low in calories and high in vitamins and fibre.

They are also a great juicy treat for dogs without kidney disease, not carrying the same risks of splintering or choking as with bones. 

How often do I feed a dog with kidney disease?

Dogs with kidney problems may already have a poor appetite or are struggling with eating a large meal. Thus, it would be better to feed them several small meals throughout the day instead.

It is a good idea to avoid treats during this time. Treats may actually spoil your plan of making your dog eat its meals.

And even if treats don’t spoil its appetite, the extra calories from these snacks might cause the dog to put on excess weight that may negatively affect its health. Some snacks are also high in carbohydrate content which is not good for a kidney disease patient.

My dog won’t eat renal food

It is normal and quite common for an ill dog to lose interest in food. That is why you need to make its diet more palatable. Here a few tricks:

  • Go for raw. Raw dog foods are literally devoid of added salt and retain most of its juicy goodness. If you buy commercially prepared ones, do check the ingredients list to ensure it is low in phosphorus.
  • Change the temperature of the food. Some like it hot, some like it cold.
  • Mix in a sprinkle of natural flavour enhancers. It can be green tripe or anything that is a safe ingredient which your dog loves. Tripe stinks for humans but smells sublime to dogs. Be sure that the ingredient is low in phosphorus and carbohydrate content.
  • Wet the food. Add a dribble of warm meat broth or liquid fish oil to your dog’s food.
  • Be resilient. Some dogs are geniuses at manipulating their owners. Their tactic: “If I don’t eat this, my owner will give me something yummier.” You have to stand your ground if you want to win the war of wills against your dog. Some dog owners testify to this. Their dogs eventually give in to their new diet after the first 1 or 2 days of rejecting the food.

However, you should never scold your dog to make it eat. This can stress them out. Through enticement and praise, you can persuade and help them to regain their appetite.

Feeding tubes would be the last resort. The worst thing that can happen and cause a dog’s condition to go downhill is the dog not eating.

Conclusion

Just because a dog has been diagnosed with kidney disease, it doesn’t mean that its kidneys have stopped working completely. Although this organ may not be working to full potential, it is actually still functional and can be encouraged to keep working with the help of medication and a controlled diet.

With these points in mind, you can work out the best renal diet plan for your dog. Whenever possible, choose fresh dog food, be it raw or gently cooked, with the right protein-fat ratio suited to the stage of kidney disease that it is in. 

Sources

PetMD. 16 March 2016. Best Foods for Dogs with Kidney Disease. (Online) Available at: https://www.petmd.com/dog/best-foods-dogs-kidney-disease  [Accessed on 13 July 2020]

Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University. 15 January 2019. Picky pet prescription: What to do when your pet won’t eat her prescribed therapeutic diet. (Online) Available at: https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2019/01/pickiness-for-therapeutic-diets/  [Accessed on 13 July 2020]

Veterinary Partner. 29 May 2019. Renal Failure Dietary Therapy. (Online) Available at: https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4952670  [Accessed on 13 July 2020]

1-800-PetMeds. What is the Best Diet for Pets With Kidney Disease? (Online) Available at: https://www.1800petmeds.com/education/diets-pets-kidney-disease-31.html  [Accessed on 13 July 2020]

Dvm360. 14 June 2016. Renal diets for veterinary patients: What to feed and when to start (Online) Available at: https://www.dvm360.com/view/renal-diets-veterinary-patients-what-feed-and-when-start  [Accessed on 13 July 2020]

WholeDog Journal. 16 May 2020. A Low-Protein “kidney diet” is Not Always the Answer. (Online) Available at: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/health/a-low-protein-kidney-diet-is-not-always-the-answer/  [Accessed on 13 July 2020] 

French Bulldog Owner. What to Feed a Dog with Kidney Failure Who Will Not Eat. (Online) Available at: https://frenchbulldogowner.com/what-to-feed-dog-with-kidney-failure-who-will-not-eat/  [Accessed on 13 July 2020]

Bridger Animal Nutrition. 21 March 2013. Diet for Animals with Kidney Disease. (Online) Available at: https://bridgeranimalnutrition.com/article-155  [Accessed on 13 July 2020]

Doggy’s Digest. Benefits of Green Tripe for Dogs. (Online) Available at: https://doggysdigest.com/benefits-of-green-tripe-for-dogs/  [Accessed on 13 July 2020] 

DogAware.com. Diet for Dogs with Kidney Disease. (Online) Available at: http://dogaware.com/health/kidneydiet.html  [Accessed on 13 July 2020]
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