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Last updated: 05 Dec 2019

The Best Dog Food for Kidney Disease (Review) in 2019

Royal Canin in Gel Wet Dog Food

Royal Canin in Gel Wet Dog Food

Royal Canin Dog Food for Kidney Disease

Royal Canin Dog Food for Kidney Disease

Hill's Science Diet Canned Wet Dog Food

Hill's Science Diet Canned Wet Dog Food

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Dr Tracy Douglas
Published 09:39 am

If your dog has recently been diagnosed with kidney disease, you’re probably feeling lost and unsure what to do. First things first, know that you’re not alone – around 10% of dogs are affected by this disease, with older canines being especially prone to it. Secondly, know that even with kidney disease, your pet can live a long and happy life. And while this is a permanent diagnosis, you definitely can help your dog feel better with the right diet. In fact, if you’re looking to control your pet’s symptoms of kidney disease, the first thing you want to change is the food he’s eating. It can be difficult at first – trying to find the right brand that not only your dog likes but is healthy for him – but with a little bit of planning and practice, it gets easier.

To help you find the right food for your dog, we’ve compiled a list of 10 best dog foods for kidney disease. Here, you’re sure to find at least one product both you and your pet will absolutely love!

The Best Dog Food for Kidney Disease

1

Dogs with kidney disease are advised to avoid high-protein foods, so formulas that contain low to moderate amounts of protein are the way to go. Also, wet dog foods are preferred over dry formulations as they contain much more water, crucial for helping the kidneys remove waste. That’s why we chose this canned food by Royal Canin as the number one on our Top list – it’s absolutely delicious, it contains moderate amounts of protein, it’s moist and contains lots of water and it’s budget-friendly. Furthermore, it contains reduced amounts of phosphorus to support kidney function and health.

The first ingredient in this gel-formula is water, which is exactly what you want for canines with kidney disease. Then we have some pork-by products and chicken as main protein sources, as well as some rice, corn, dried beet pulp and fish oil for healthy skin and shiny coat. The recipe is fortified with all important vitamins and minerals, so it provides a complete everyday nutrition which you can serve alone or mix with your pet’s favorite kibble.

Calorie content: 957 kcal/kg, 158 kcal/can

Minimum protein: 7.5%

Minimum fat: 3%

Maximum fiber: 1.5%

Maximum moisture: 79%

Maximum phosphorus: 0.18%

Enriched with vitamins and minerals

First three ingredients: water sufficient for processing, pork by-products, chicken

Specification:
  • Brand: Royal Canin
  • Model: 42041
  • Weight: 8.7 pounds

2

If your pooch loves dry dog foods the most, there’s no reason to stop serving them just because of his condition. However, it’s important to pick the right kind of kibble – low in protein, sodium, and phosphorus, but high in other macro and micronutrients. The Blue Natural KS diet is that kind of a kibble – highly palatable, easily digestible but low in protein and moderately low in phosphorus to support kidney health. It’s also veterinarian-recommended, so it’s a perfect choice for all pet parents who are looking for safe, tasty foods for their dogs.

Although it’s low in protein (14%), this dog food for kidney disease contains high-quality animal and plant protein sources, including deboned chicken as the first ingredient, potatoes, peas, dried eggs, pea protein, sweet potatoes, and others veggies. Flaxseed, which is a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is also present, as well as fish oil for a shiny coat and healthy skin, dried chicory root for fiber, and some carrots, blueberries, cranberries, barley grass and parsley for increased antioxidant content. The kibble also contains added vitamins and minerals, but is grain-free, meaning suitable for pups with sensitive stomachs.

Calorie content: 3,879 kcal/kg, 404 kcal/cup

Minimum protein: 14%

Minimum fat: 18%

Maximum fiber: 7%

Maximum moisture: 10%

Maximum phosphorus: 0.55%

Maximum Sodium: 0.25%

Omega 6 fatty acids (min) 3%; omega 3 fatty acids (min) 1.5%

Enriched with vitamins and minerals

With Taurine and L-Carnitine

First three ingredients: deboned chicken, potato starch, pea starch

Specification:
  • Brand: Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet
  • Model: 801381
  • Weight: 6 pounds

3

If you’re looking for a moist low-protein dog food that supports dog’s overall health and wellbeing, especially the mobility and muscle mass of senior dogs, you need to check out this Adult 7+ Beef & Barley entree by Hill’s Science Diet. Containing balanced nutrition for older dogs, including lowered levels of sodium and phosphorus for kidney health, this wet food is a great choice for pets with kidney disease. And thanks to the quality ingredients it contains, it’s also delicious and perfect as a topper, mixed with kibble or as a stand-alone meal.

The first ingredient in this canned dog food is water, which is a good thing for dogs with kidney disease. This is followed by real beef and cracked pearled barley and some whole grain corn. Although this is a low protein dog food (4%), it contains good quality animal and plant protein sources, including beef, pork liver, dried whey, fish meal, and corn. The formula is also enriched with all the necessary minerals and vitamins, including vitamins B12, D3, C and E, as well as zinc, manganese, copper, and others.

Related Post: Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food Review

Calorie content: 160 kcal/5.5 oz can

Minimum protein: 4%

Minimum fat: 2.5%

Maximum fiber: 1.5%

Fortified with vitamins and minerals

First three ingredients: water, beef, cracked pearled barley

Specification:
  • Brand: Hill’s Science Diet
  • Model: 4968
  • Weight: 8.68 pounds

4

Made of quality but a restricted amount of protein, as well as reduced levels of phosphorus and sodium, this canned dog food is a good choice for most canines who suffer from kidney disease. It’s a veterinarian-recommended pet food that’s specially formulated to support kidney function and health while providing optimal nutrition for adult dogs. Since this is a canned dog food, it’s high in water (first ingredient), which is vital for helping the kidneys remove toxins.

Besides water, this renal dog food contains some meat by-products, beef, liver and chicken by-products as its main protein sources. There are also rice and corn present which increase the nutrient and fiber content, as well as fish oil which is great for overall canine health, including skin and coat health. The formula is also fortified with all the necessary micronutrients, including vitamin E which acts as an antioxidant, vitamin D3, an array of B vitamins, as well as zinc, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and others. This food can be used as a topper to increase your dog’s appetite, or as a stand-alone meal, as it’s balanced and complete.

Calorie content: 1282 kcal/kg, 483 kcal/can

Minimum protein: 3.8%

Minimum fat: 5.5%

Maximum fiber: 2%

Maximum moisture: 74%

Minimum phosphorus: 0.15%

Maximum sodium: 0.13%

Fortified with vitamins and minerals

First three ingredients: water sufficient for processing, meat by-products, rice

Specification:
  • Brand: Purina Waggin’ Train
  • Model: FBA_38706
  • Weight: 10 pounds

5

Looking for tasty dry dog food that supports kidney health? Check out this Veterinary Diet Urinary SO food by Royal Canine, which is specially crafted to support the urinary health of canines. Made with low amounts of protein and reduced magnesium levels to help increase urine volume and reduce the concentration of the minerals that create kidney stones, this kibble is a good choice for most dogs with kidney disease. Since this is a complete everyday diet, it can be served alone, mixed with water or with other wet dog foods.

To decrease the amount of protein, nutrition experts at Royal Canin have put animal-based protein (chicken by-product meal) as the third ingredient. The first two are brewers rice and corn which contain some vitamins and minerals and help increase the fiber content. There are other ingredients mixed in as well, including chicken fat, eggs, and fish oil which all up to the fat content and help improve the look of your dog’s skin and coat. The recipe is also enriched with vitamins and minerals and includes everything an adult dog needs to be healthy. But most importantly, the formulation helps increase urine volume, decreasing struvite and calcium oxalate levels.

Calorie content: 3649 kcal/kg, 288 kcal/cup

Minimum protein: 14%

Minimum fat: 14%

Maximum fiber: 4.7%

Maximum moisture: 10%

Maximum magnesium: 0.08%

Enriched with vitamins and minerals

First three ingredients: brewers rice, corn, chicken by-product meal

Specification:
  • Brand: Royal Canin
  • Model: 20154574
  • Weight: 6.61 pounds

6

If your pooch is still quite active and energetic, dog foods that are not only low in protein but other macronutrients too may not be enough to support his well-being. That’s why it’s a good idea to opt for low-protein but high-fat foods that not only support kidney health and function but your pet’s high energy levels as well. In fact, this tasty kibble was developed by Hill’s veterinarians and nutritionists exactly with that in mind – to help improve canine kidney function, sustain muscle mass and improve quality of life.

With the ingredients such as brown and brewers rice, pork fat, chicken, eggs, barley, whole grain sorghum, and others, this renal diet for dogs is delicious, easily digestible and nutritious. The recipe also contains fish oil which helps increase omega-3 fatty acid content, so necessary for dog’s skin and coat health. Of course, there are added supplements as well, which help make this kibble a complete and balanced everyday diet. As for sodium and phosphorus content, it’s quite low,  which is always a plus for kidney care diets.

Calorie content: 4050 kcal/kg, 402 kcal/cup

Minimum protein: 15.5%

Minimum fat: 23%

Maximum fiber: 1.7%

Sodium: 0.19%

Phosphorus: 0.33%

Omega 3 fatty acids (min) 0.95%

Enriched with vitamins and minerals

First three ingredients: brown rice, brewers rice, pork fat

Specification:
  • Brand: Hill’s Pet Nutrition
  • Model: HLL-417
  • Weight: 8.6 pounds

7

Another Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function formula by Purina ProPlan, but this one a dry version, for dogs who prefer kibble over wet foods. Like the canned recipe, this dry food is also made with a restricted amount of protein and phosphorus, as well as sodium levels. It’s a good choice for most dogs with kidney problems, as it’s specially crafted to support renal health while providing optimal nutrition for adult dogs.

To reduce the amount of protein, this kidney diet for dogs contains no meat-based protein sources. Instead, whole grains like corn and rice, eggs and dried whey make up the protein content, while fish and vegetable oil help increase the healthy fats, especially omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are necessary for your dog’s overall health and wellbeing, as well as his skin and coat. To help support kidney health, sodium and phosphorus levels are reduced. The recipe also contains added vitamins and minerals, so it provides a complete nutrition which can be used alone, mixed with water (highly recommended) or other kidney-friendly wet dog foods.

Calorie content: 4091 kcal/kg, 478 kcal/ cup

Minimum protein: 12.5%

Minimum fat: 13%

Maximum fiber: 2.5%

Maximum moisture: 12%

Maximum sodium: 0.40%

Maximum phosphorus: 0.40%

Enriched with vitamins and minerals

First three ingredients: whole grain corn, brewers rice, dried egg product

Specification:
  • Brand: Veterinary Diets
  • Model: proplan-nf-kidney-fuction
  • Weight: 6 pounds

8

If your pooch is showing some serious signs of kidney disease, avoiding meat-based dog foods may be a good idea. This dry dog food by Royal Canin is a good choice is it doesn’t contain any meat, but quality vegetable-based protein that is easily digestible and gentle on the liver and kidneys. The kibble contains a precise blend of nutrients, including a lowered amount of copper for healthy kidney and liver function, but still manages to provide a complete and balanced nutrition for adult dogs.

Grains such as brewers and brown rice, as well as corn make up the basis of this recipe. Other ingredients, including chicken fat, vegetable and fish oil up the fat content, especially the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which are not only vital for many biological functions but your pet’s skin and coat health too.  The recipe also contains added minerals and vitamins, so it provides a complete everyday nutrition which can be served alone, mixed with water or your dog’s favorite wet food. L-carnitine is also present which helps dogs maintain a healthy weight.

Calorie content: 3768 kcal/kg, 339 kcal/cup

Minimum protein: 14%

Minimum fat: 14%

Maximum fiber: 3.6%

Maximum moisture: 10%

Maximum copper: 7 mg/kg

Enriched with vitamins and minerals

With L-carnitine

First three ingredients: brewers rice, brown rice, corn

Specification:
  • Brand: Royal Canin
  • Model: 460477
  • Weight: 7.72 pounds

9

Containing quality animal protein but in low amounts, this beef and veggies stew by Hill’s Prescription Diet is a perfect choice for canines with kidney disease. Developed by Hil’s nutritionists and veterinarians, this wet dog food is clinically proven to support kidney health on one hand, while improving and lengthening quality of life on another. So how does his food do that? By being low in protein, sodium, and phosphorus, but moderately rich in healthy fats and fiber.

The first ingredient in this tasty stew is water, which is followed by real beef and carrots. Other ingredients, including rice, green peas, dried eggs, dried beet pulp, and flaxseed are also part of the recipe, which all help increase the nutrient and antioxidant content. Fish oil is also there which boosts the fat content and helps improve the look of your pet’s coat and skin. The formula is also enriched with all important minerals and vitamins, and even contains L-carnitine for healthy metabolism, so it’s a balanced everyday diet which can be served alone or mixed with your pup’s favorite kibble.

Calorie content: 330 kcal/12.5oz can

Minimum protein: 2.5%

Minimum fat: 3.5%

Maximum fiber: 2%

Enriched with vitamins and minerals

With L-carnitine

First three ingredients: water, beef, carrots

Specification:
  • Brand: Hill’s Pet Nutrition
  • Weight: 10 pounds

10

If your pooch’s appetite has been decreasing due to the disease, aromatic, flavorful kibbles specially crafted to support kidney health are the way to go. This particular recipe from Royal Canin is a great choice as it’s formulated with optimal nutrient levels, including low amounts of sodium, phosphorus, and protein, but high amounts of antioxidants. Plus, it’s packed with natural flavors which help stimulate dog’s appetite – an important aspect of kidney care dog foods, as canines with kidney disease tend to have poor appetites.

With only 10.5% of protein, this kibble contains the lowest amount of protein per dry basis on our Top 10 list. Chicken by-product meal, the only meat-based protein source, comes as the fifth ingredient, as corn, brown and white rice and chicken fat are the first four ingredients. Other foods, including dried beet pulp and psyllium seed husk help, increase fiber content, while fish oil helps to boost the omega-3 fatty acids which are necessary for canine overall health, as well as healthy skin and coat. The Royal Canin Renal dog food is also enriched with all important minerals and vitamins, so it’s a complete and balanced diet.

Calorie content: 3882 kcal/kg, 365 kcal/cup

Minimum protein: 10%

Minimum fat: 16%

Maximum fiber: 4%

Maximum moisture: 10%

Maximum phosphorus: 0.39%

Enriched with vitamins and minerals

With Taurine

First three ingredients: corn, brewers rice, chicken fat

Specification:
  • Brand: Royal Canin
  • Model: FBA_561517
  • Weight: 17.64 pounds

Best Dog Food for Kidney Disease Guide

So there you have it – our Top 10 list of best dog foods for kidney disease. As you can see, we included different brands with different price tags and both dry and wet dog foods, as we know many pet parents cannot afford to feed their dogs’ expensive foods solely and may be forced to mix kidney disease (KD) dog foods with regular kibbles. While it’s true KD dog foods are much more suitable for canines with kidney problems than regular dog foods, you definitely can make it work by mixing different foods and making sure your pet drinks enough water.  Speaking of expensive dog foods, do you really need to spend a small fortune to keep your dog’s disease under control? We talk about that and many more things down below, so check out our entire buying guide, as well as our FAQ section to learn more about kidney disease in dogs and what you can do to help your pet live healthier and longer.

Golden retriever lying near metal bowl

Characteristics of an Ideal Kidney Diet for Dogs

The ideal kidney diet for dogs depends on the stage of the disease the pet has. In the beginning, prescription diets may not be necessary as low-protein diets may lead to muscle loss. But as the disease progresses, certain dietary modifications are absolutely necessary. At his point, prescription diets may be the best option. In any case, the best kidney diets are:

  • Low(er) in protein: as mentioned, in the early stages of the disease, slightly higher protein is fine. With advanced kidney failure, however, protein needs to be quite low.
  • High in water: consuming enough water is of utmost importance in kidney disease. That’s why canned dog foods are recommended over dry dog foods – they simply contain more water. Of course, you can always mix kibble with water or moist food to help your dog get enough fluids in each meal.
  • Reduced sodium and phosphorus levels: mild to moderate sodium and phosphorus restriction are necessary for proper kidney function, as higher amounts can overwork the kidneys and even lead to hyperphosphatemia.
  • Increased omega-3 fatty acids: omega-3 fatty acids help lower inflammation and are good for your pet’s overall health and well-being. Look for KD dog foods that contain fish oil.

The Function of the Kidneys

Kidneys are some of the most important organs in a dog’s body. They help maintain normal concentrations of water and salt in the body, as well as and phosphorus levels. They also help control blood pressure and aid in calcium metabolism. Finally, these little bean-shaped organs help the body get rid of waste and toxins. So, when they stop functioning properly, a number of health issues ensue, including a build-up of toxins in the blood which can eventually lead to death.

As you can probably guess by now, one of the most important things you can do for your pet’s health is helping them maintain their kidney function. Thankfully, even if your dog has been diagnosed with kidney disease, there are things you can do to help them live a long, happy life.

Signs of Kidney Disease in Dogs

Kidney disease can sneak up on your dog. The symptoms can be so small and unclear that the disease can go undetected for years. The trouble is, the sooner the disease is detected, the easier it is to treat it. But usually, by the time the symptoms have become obvious, it’s too late to reverse the condition. So, to help your dog live a long, healthy life, look for the following symptoms:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Decreased appetite
  • Change in the mood (depression, lethargy)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Pale gums

Finally, as the disease progresses, so do the symptoms:

  • Blood in urine
  • Vomiting
  • Blindness
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Related Post: Best Dog Food for Seizures

Acute Renal Failure

Acute renal failure happens when kidneys start losing their function rapidly. There are several things that can cause or contribute to this condition, including:

  • Poisons such as antifreeze
  • Eating lots of grapes or raisins
  • Consuming aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Having infectious diseases such as Lyme disease, Leptospirosis or bacterial pyelonephritis.

If your pet has acute kidney failure, there’s no time to waste – if you notice any of the symptoms listed in Signs of Kidney Disease in Dogs chapter, get your dog to a veterinarian as this condition requires immediate and intensive treatment.

Dried dog food

Chronic Kidney Disease

If your dog has been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, you may be wondering what this condition actually entails as well as what to do about it. First things first – let’s define the main functions of your pet’s kidneys:

  • They help process protein waste and excrete it in the urine
  • Help filter blood and maintain normal red blood cells
  • Help balance body water, salts, and acids.

When one of these functions is either significantly reduced or compromised, kidney disease occurs. And when this disease is not diagnosed and treated early, chronic kidney disease happens. Unfortunately, as we mentioned before, early symptoms of the disease are quite hard to notice. In fact, the condition typically goes undetected until the kidneys are functioning at around 33% to 25% of their capacity. So, if you weren’t able to detect the problem early on – don’t worry, most pet parents aren’t able to either, as the symptoms can be mild and vary from dog to dog. What’s important is to change your dog’s lifestyle once he’s been diagnosed. You can do this by switching his diet to renal-supportive nutrition (more about that in our FAQ section) and making sure he drinks enough water every single day.

Possible Diseases or Conditions That Can Lead to Kidney Failure

Kidney failure occurs when your dog’s kidneys are no longer able to perform their functions, including removing waste and toxins from the body. There are two types of kidney failure, both of which we’ve described above: acute and chronic.

Causes of kidney failure depend on which type of kidney failure your pet has. In any case, these are some of the common conditions and/or diseases that can lead to this dangerous condition:

  • Untreated kidney disease
  • Urinary blockage
  • Bacterial infections
  • Lymphoma
  • Diabetes
  • Certain drugs
  • Hereditary factors

Best Dog Food for Kidney Disease FAQ:

Q: Can a dog survive with kidney failure?

A: Although there is no cure for chronic kidney failure, your dog can definitely live with the disease. In fact, if you make sure your dog has a healthy, renal-supportive diet, he may be able to live a very long, happy life.

Q: Can I reverse kidney damage in my dog?

A: Unfortunately, kidney disease is irreversible, however, you can slow the progression of the disease with a good diet, regular and frequent vet check-ups, and lots and lots of hydration.

Q: How is kidney disease in dogs diagnosed?

A: If your dog is exhibiting several kidney disease symptoms, your vet will do a complete blood profile and urinalysis. This is necessary because dogs with kidney disease often have abnormal electrolyte levels, high blood pressure and sometimes even anemia. As for their urine, it usually contains elevated levels of creatinine and blood urea nitrogen. X-ray or ultrasound may also be necessary.

Q: What should I expect if my dog has kidney disease?

A: While your dog can live a long and good life with kidney disease, it doesn’t come without certain problems. You will most definitely have to change your pet’s lifestyle, including her food and water consumption. However, you should also expect a different mood and behavior from your furry friend – dogs with kidney disease often have a poor appetite and may feel tired and lethargic. For this reason, to help your dog keep his weight on and maintain his muscle mass and energy levels, consider spicing up his food (add some toppers, fish oils, chicken stock or tuna juice into his regular food).

Q: How can I switch my dog to a renal-supportive diet?

A: When changing your dog’s diet, start slowly. In the beginning, mix just a little bit of the new, renal-supportive food with her regular kibble/moist food, then start increasing the content of the new food little by little. It may take several days until your dog is fully accustomed to the new diet. It’s a good idea to increase the palatability of the kidney-supportive food by adding tasty but healthy toppers or fish oils.

Related Post: Best Low Sodium Dog Food

Owner giving food to his dog

Our Top Pick

In this best dog food for kidney disease guide, you could read about different dog foods, their nutritional profiles and what they’re good for. But we feel like the guide wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention our very own Top Pick. The Royal Canin Canine Health Nutrition Mature 8+ Canned Food for Toy and Small Dogs is one of the best dog foods for kidney disease, especially if your pet’s condition is still in its early stages. This wet food is moderately low in protein, contains plenty of water but small amounts of sodium and phosphorus to support kidney health. It’s also super-delicious and since it’s fortified with all important vitamins, it can be used as a stand-alone meal or mixed with other kidney-friendly kibbles. Finally, for a renal-supportive diet, it’s reasonably priced and easy to incorporate into your pet’s diet.

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Dr Tracy Douglas
Dr Tracy Douglas
General Practice Veterinarian, currently working at the Glenwood Veterinary Clinic, Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Dr. Douglas began her veterinary career as a Veterinary Nurse in Highton Veterinary Clinic, Highton Victoria, and then as an Emergency Veterinarian in Uintah Pet Emergency, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tracy is particularly interested in surgery, neurology and internal medicine, which gives her a well-rounded knowledge on animal health and well-being. She received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Melbourne, while her undergraduate bachelor of science is from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
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