What to feed a dog with kidney disease?


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Kidney disease often affects dogs, and it is very much seen especially in older dogs. It is a condition that could be life-threatening if left untreated and in some cases has resulted in death. The kidneys are important as they are the ones who remove all of the waste from the body’s metabolism and excrete it through the urine. They are also responsible for electrolyte balance.

There are two main types of kidney disease that the vets usually talk about:

  • Acute Kidney Injury (AKI): This is a sudden and severe onset of kidney dysfunction. It can be caused by factors such as ingestion of toxic substances, infections, dehydration, or certain medications. AKI requires immediate veterinary attention and may be reversible if treated promptly.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD): CKD is a gradual and irreversible deterioration of kidney function over time. It is commonly seen in older dogs and may be caused by factors like genetics, infections, immune system disorders, or certain medications. CKD is managed through long-term care and adjustments to the dog’s diet and medication.

What are the most common symptoms of dogs with kidney disease?

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Bad breath
  • Pale gums
  • Muscle wasting
  • Swelling (particularly around the face and legs)

Does my dog with kidney disease require specific feeding guidelines?

Yes, they do and this is something that will greatly help your dog while it is on the mend. Your vet will probably discuss several important things and changes that you may need to implement in your dog’s diet.

Here are a few of them that you need to take into consideration:

  • Low Phosphorus Content: Phosphorus is a mineral that can build up in the bloodstream when the kidneys are not functioning properly. A low-phosphorus diet is important for dogs with kidney disease. Look for commercial dog foods labeled as “kidney-friendly” or “renal support,” which typically have reduced phosphorus levels.
  • Limited Protein: Contrary to popular belief, dogs with kidney disease do not necessarily need a very low-protein diet. Moderation is key. High-quality protein sources, such as eggs and lean meats, can still be included in the diet to provide essential amino acids while minimizing the workload on the kidneys.
  • High-Quality Protein: While protein intake may be moderated, it’s important that the protein provided is of high quality and easily digestible. Look for protein sources like chicken, turkey, and fish.
  • Low Sodium Content: Kidneys help regulate sodium levels in the body, so it’s best to avoid high-sodium foods. This can help manage blood pressure and reduce fluid retention.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil or certain dog foods, can have anti-inflammatory effects and support kidney health.
  • Controlled Fat Content: A moderate fat content can help prevent weight loss and provide a good source of energy without overburdening the kidneys.
  • Supplements: Your veterinarian may recommend specific supplements to support kidney function, such as B vitamins, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Fresh Water: Always ensure your dog has access to fresh, clean water. Proper hydration is crucial for managing kidney disease.
  • Home-Cooked Meals: Some owners opt for home-cooked diets under the guidance of a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist. This allows for precise control over ingredients and nutrient levels.

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