Kidney diet for dogs and cats – my take on how to navigate the contradictory information.

12th March 2020
Beryl Shuttleworth
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Researching this kidney diet for dogs and cats took me far longer than I anticipated. Wow, here is a lot of information out there, and a lot of it is blatantly contradictory. I’ve trudged through most of it, and tried to come up with some sensibleness.

Symptoms of kidney disease in dogs and cats include:  thirst, increased urination, decreased appetite, weight loss and poor condition. As soon as you notice this, get your pet to a vet – the sooner the better.

Your vet might give medication. But, in this article, I want to look at the very important role that diet plays.

Some vets will recommend a special dry food for kidney disease. This food is specifically designed for kidney disease and has:

  • low Sodium (high dietary Sodium increases blood pressure and worsens kidney damage, so a low Sodium level is great)
  • low Phosphorous (decreasing Phosphorous improves the removal of creatinine, a waste product which can build up in kidney disease)
  • low protein levels (the thinking behind this is that a lower protein level decreases the workload of the kidneys – I disagree and will explain below).

I agree completely with limiting intake of Sodium and Phosphorous. But limiting protein in animals designed to eat mostly protein is not ideal, IMHO.  I’d rather keep a higher protein level and increase protein digestibility and quality. Also select protein sources that are low in Phosphorous, Sodium and Pottasium.

Another disadvantage of the dry food diet is exactly that – it is dry. By far the most important thing your pet needs when suffering from kidney problems is water. Unlimited access to fresh clean water all of the time. This will serve to flush the kidneys and make their job easier. If you do want to go the dry food route, my suggestion is to wet the food with water (not milk).

In addition, some dry foods also incorporate Phosphoric acid in the manufacturing process. This breaks down into Phosphorous when ingested, exactly what we don’t need in this situation.

I recommend following either a BARF (raw food) or cooked homemade diet rather than using a dry food. I’m not going to go into detail on the actual diet here – there are people who know far more than me about this. But, good meats to use are: chicken (dark meat or skin, not the white meat), tripe, pork, lamb, duck. Good vegetables are: sweet potatoes (boiled, no skin) and butternut. No dairy. Egg shells for calcium and counteracting the metabolic acidosis which is also a result of failing kidneys.

I’m often asked about herbs to add in order to help the healing process. And, after looking into this, I must actually say I’d rather not use herbs in the critical stages of kidney disease at all. Apart from the fact that several of them contain high levels of Phosphorous or Potassium (both already too high in kidney disease), they place an extra burden on the kidneys in terms of excretion. I don’t think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

B vitamins and vitamin C are lost because of the higher volumes of water being drunk. So, a low dose multivitamin might be a good idea. I say low dose because the fat soluble vitamins will build up if over supplemented, especially in pets with kidney problems.

But the real star of the kidney disease supplements are Omega 3 fatty acids. Studies show that Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation is renoprotective (protects the kidneys from damage) and anti-inflammatory. It has also been shown, in humans, to decrease uremic pruritus (itchiness due to kidney disease), decrease the chance of fatalities and delay the progression of the disease.

Now (shameless plug alert), the Omega 3 Formula product that we formulated for Nutriphase (Pick n Pay) contains phytoplankton, which is the world’s cleanest source of Omega 3. If you are going to give an Omega supplement, I suggest giving this one, because it is free of contamination (fish oils tend to be contaminated with both heavy metals and pesticides) and has a high level of Omega 3 fatty acids, capable of balancing out the typically higher levels of Omega 6 fatty acids fed. (Available from selected Pick n Pays).

Please as always, note that I am not a vet and check any diet changes or supplements with the vet treating your dog.

References:

Chang AR, Anderson C. Dietary Phosphorus Intake and the Kidney. Annu Rev Nutr. 2017;37:321–346. doi:10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064607

https://www.kidney-international.org/article/S0085-2538(15)34722-0/pdf

Panahi Y, Dashti-Khavidaki S, Farnood F, Noshad H, Lotfi M, Gharekhani A. Therapeutic Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Chronic Kidney Disease-Associated Pruritus: a Literature Review. Adv Pharm Bull. 2016;6(4):509–514. doi:10.15171/apb.2016.064

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2017/1680985/

Hu J, Liu Z, Zhang H. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation as an adjunctive therapy in the treatment of chronic kidney disease: a meta-analysis. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2017;72(1):58–64. Published 2017 Jan 1. doi:10.6061/clinics/2017(01)10

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9605110

https://todaysveterinarypractice.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/06/T1401C04.pdf

https://www.vin.com/apputil/content/defaultadv1.aspx?pId=8768&catId=18832&id=3850248

Fatty Acid Profiles and Production in Marine Phytoplankton Sigrún Huld Jónasdóttir Section for Oceans and Arctic, Technical University of Denmark, Kemitorvet, Building 202, DK-2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark; sjo@aqua.dtu.dk Received: 28 January 2019; Accepted: 26 February 2019; Published: 4 March 2019

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-53250-x

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