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How Nutrition Can Help With Canine Chronic Kidney Disease

Kidney illness in dogs is serious business. Chronic kidney disease is a disease that takes hold over a long time, resulting in a slow degeneration of the kidneys. The kidneys and renal system are a vital part of maintaining overall health and wellness in the body. So what should you do if your dog has chronic kidney disease? This article will help outline some nutritional tips to improve kidney and renal health in your dog.

What is chronic disease?

As stated above, chronic kidney disease is the slow degeneration of the kidneys, where the kidneys can no longer filter blood properly. Kidneys play a necessary role in homeostasis as they help with water and mineral balance and are the major filtration and excretory route for toxins and circulatory waste. 

If the kidneys are not working, it can throw off the overall balance in the body, causing dogs to become very sick. Symptoms of chronic kidney disease are not always apparent at first, but become more prominent over time. 

Cartoon illustration of a large white dog experiencing kidney pains

Some of the observable symptoms associated with chronic kidney disease are:

  • blood in the urine
  • vomiting
  • general weakness
  • increase in urination
  • excessive thirst
  • bad breath
  • ulcers in the mouth
  • low mobility
  • hunched posture
  • muscular weakness
  • loss of balance
  • convulsions
  • paws or other body parts swollen due to water retention
  • blood in the eyes
  • retinal detachments

Chronic kidney disease is usually diagnosed by a trip to the veterinarian, where they will do a complete urinalysis and blood chemistry test. From there, the veterinarian can determine the degree of degeneration.

Veterinary treatment of chronic kidney disease usually includes intravenous fluids to flush out the kidneys. After that, the doc will probably recommend a special renal diet and a phosphate binder medication.

Curious Border Collie puppy sitting and looking at a stethoscope hanging around female vet technician’s neck

How nutrition can help with chronic kidney disease

The most important concept around kidney disease treatment is to improve flushing out of waste. Diets that are high in moisture content are extremely helpful with this. Fresh cooked food and canned/semi-moist foods contain a high water content compared to traditional kibble and can help reduce dehydration and flush out unwanted compounds from the body. 

Happy and panting Brindle Frenchie sitting in front of a bowl of Kabo’s savoury beef meal.

Selecting diets that are low in protein and phosphates are also key. This reduces the amount of waste that the kidneys need to filter out. Therapeutic diets for chronic kidney disease should have no more than 14-20% protein on a dry matter basis, 0.2-0.5% phosphorous and 0.3% sodium. Generally, your average pet store diet will exceed these recommended levels and a special veterinary diet will need to be prescribed.

Australian Shepherd puppy sniffing stethoscope as the vet tries to take it’s heartbeat
Australian Shepherd puppy sniffing stethoscope as the vet tries to take it’s heartbeat

View Sources

Cobrin, A. R., S. L. Blois, S. A. Kruth, A. C. G. Abrams‐Ogg, and C. Dewey. "Biomarkers in the assessment of acute and chronic kidney diseases in the dog and cat." Journal of Small Animal Practice 54, no. 12 (2013): 647-655.

VCA. “Nutrition for Dogs with Chronic Kidney Disease”.

Homeoanimal. “Kidney Failure In Dogs, The Complete Guide: Causes, Symptoms And Solutions”.

VCA. “Chronic Kidney Disease in Dogs”.

Bartges, Joseph W. "Chronic kidney disease in dogs and cats." Veterinary Clinics: Small Animal Practice 42, no. 4 (2012): 669-692.

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February 20, 2024
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