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Diet for Dogs With Kidney Failure

When your pup's kidneys no longer perform as well as expected, it is referred to as kidney or renal failure. Here, our Southern Wisconsin vets discuss the different types, causes and symptoms of kidney failure in dogs and how a special diet can help.

What is kidney failure?

Kidney failure (also referred to as renal failure) may be caused by several internal medicine conditions that impact the kidneys and related organs. When your dog's kidneys are healthy, they work to eliminate toxins, regulate hydration, maintain a normal electrolyte balance, and release hormones required to produce red blood cells. If your dog experiences kidney failure, it means its body will be unable to perform all these vital functions properly.

Types of Kidney Failure in Dogs

There are two broad categories of kidney failure seen in dogs:

  • Acute renal failure - When kidney function suddenly decreases (within hours or days), this is known as acute renal failure. Typically, this form of kidney failure is caused by an infection or exposure to toxins.
  • Chronic renal failure - When the loss of kidney function is gradual (over weeks, months, or years), it’s called chronic renal failure. Chronic kidney failure is typically caused by degeneration associated with old age. All kidneys have a lifespan; however, some dogs experience deterioration faster than others.

The primary difference between acute and chronic kidney failure in dogs is that while acute kidney failure is likely reversible if diagnosed early and treated intensively, chronic kidney failure can only be managed.

What are the causes of kidney failure?

Any disease that affects the kidneys can cause the kidneys to fail. These conditions can include:

  • Congenital disease - This category can include underlying illnesses and hereditary conditions - everything from agenesis (being born without one or both kidneys) to cysts.
  • Bacterial infections - If your dog swims or drinks in contaminated water, bacterial infections such as leptospirosis can attack their system, causing the kidneys to become inflamed and renal cells to die off.
  • Toxicosis - When the kidneys are poisoned, this can lead to cell damage within the kidneys. It can happen when your dog consumes drugs or poisons (such as foods or substances that are toxic to them).
  • Dental disease - When bacteria build up on the teeth and gums, this can lead to advanced dental disease. The bacteria can enter the bloodstream and attack multiple organs, causing irreversible damage to the kidneys, heart, and liver.
  • Geriatric degeneration - Cells can break down and die as your dog ages. This also happens in the kidneys and can lead to kidney disease.

The Common Symptoms of Kidney Failure

If your dog develops kidney disease, they may display one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Significant weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Pale gums
  • Uncoordinated movement or stumbling
  • Breath that smells like chemicals
  • Significant decrease in appetite
  • Increase or decrease in water consumption
  • Increase or decrease in volume of urine
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Blood in urine
  • Lethargy
  • Intestinal seizures

The type of kidney failure your dog is experiencing, the extent of loss of kidney function, the progression of the condition, and the underlying cause can indicate whether kidney issues or another problem, such as diabetes mellitus, are causing your dog's symptoms.

Treatment of Kidney Disease in Dogs

The success of kidney disease treatment will depend on your dog's age and health and how advanced their condition is. In most instances, treatment for kidney disease includes a combination of medications and dietary restrictions. If your dog has kidney failure, a particular diet may help slow the condition's progression. This will help reduce your kidney's workload, while medications aim to reduce the disease's kidneys.

Ideal Dog Food for Managing Kidney Disease

Dogs suffering from chronic kidney disease usually require therapeutic diets that contain less protein, sodium, and phosphorus and more omega-3 fatty acids.

Reduced Protein

Reducing the amount of protein in your dog's diet remains controversial. There are two goals behind this choice for your vet. Since their kidneys are responsible for filtering their body's waste when they process protein. The first goal of reducing protein is to help lower the amount of waste your dog's body produces, and the second is to reduce the amount of protein entering the kidneys' filtration systems.

This means that feeding your dog a diet with reduced levels of protein may help reduce the workload placed on its kidneys, preserving kidney function.

Reduced Phosphorus

As your pup's kidneys fail, the phosphorus concentration in their blood becomes elevated. Elevated phosphorus concentrations have been linked to several negative side effects, such as vitamin D deficiency and reduced ability of your dog's body to metabolize calcium. Normalizing blood phosphorus concentrations through the diet may help slow the disease's progression in dogs with chronic kidney disease.

One very important thing to remember is that the phosphorus levels in your dog's food are directly related to the amount of protein in the food. Restricting phosphorus levels in your dog's diet also requires restricting their protein intake. It is also essential to know that normalizing your dog's phosphorus levels in their blood through a diet is usually only successful if their kidney disease is diagnosed and treated early. If your dog is experiencing advanced kidney disease they may require the use of medications to help manage their condition.

Reduced Sodium

Reducing your dog's sodium intake can also benefit its health. Reducing sodium can lower the workload on your pet's kidneys and help to maintain healthier blood pressure. If your dog is on a diet with reduced sodium, make sure you don't forget to check the contents of their treats. Most treats that dogs love, including cheese or jerky, have a high sodium content.

Increased Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids slow the progression of chronic kidney disease by reducing inflammatory compounds that place stress on your dog's kidneys to process. Many foods with increased levels of omega-3 contain fish, such as salmon, which dogs enjoy. Your pup's diet may also be supplemented with fish or flaxseed oil.

What should I feed my dog with kidney disease?

If your dog has chronic kidney disease, your vet will recommend the best food for your dog's condition and help combat the progression of the illness. Each dog is unique, and the food recommended for your beloved pet will depend on the progression of the disease, its severity, and your canine companion's age and overall health.

Standard dog foods often contain levels of protein and phosphorus that are too high for dogs with chronic kidney disease. However, there are several prescription therapeutic foods available from your vet. Prescription diets have been specially formulated to meet your dog's dietary requirements while offering restricted protein, phosphorus, and sodium. Speak to your veterinarian about which food is best for your dog.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog showing any signs of illness or medical condition? Contact our Southern Wisconsin vets to schedule an examination and diagnostics.

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