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!
Best Dog Food for Kidney Disease Guide & FAQ
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.
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
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.
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
- 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.
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.