Kidney disease, or CKD, is common among dogs, and chronic kidney disease is usually associated with older dogs. If your dog is urinating more often, has lost weight, and drinking more water, you should visit your veterinarian.
We’ve written before about all the benefits of therapeutic diets like low-phosphorus diets for pets with kidney disease (CKD). With most conditions that affect pets, nutritional therapy may be beneficial in helping your dog feel better and sometimes helping the underlying disease. There are therapeutic diets for all conditions, but Tufts explains that only a few are appropriate for pets with kidney disease.
If your pup suffers from kidney disease, your veterinarian may recommend a diet low in phosphorus. Phosphorus is an essential mineral for dogs, but too much can cause significant damage to the kidneys.
Low-phosphorous diets can be beneficial in slowing the progression of kidney disease and improving survival. The recommended phosphorus content in dog food on a kibble or dry matter basis for kidney disease or CKD is 0.2-0.5%.
Veterinary diets designed for pets with kidney disease are specially formulated to be non-acidifying. This is a vital consideration since animals suffering renal ailments can become overly acidic, compromising their health and well-being – so acid-neutralizing meals must therefore form part of the dietary plan. Dogs with CKD should have an unlimited fresh water supply that should be changed several times daily.
Here are some of the best-reviewed low-phosphorus dog foods to consider if your dog has CKD.
Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care Wet Dog Food is a veterinary diet specially formulated to help protect your dog’s kidney function. This wet dog food has clinically proven nutrition to improve and lengthen quality of life.
It contains wholesome ingredients with more essential amino acids than daily requirements to support a dog’s natural ability to maintain lean muscle. Reduced phosphorus and sodium help protect vital kidney function.
- Wet food
- Chicken and veggie stew formula
- Science-based nutrition
- Includes high levels of essential amino acids
- Clinically proven nutrition
- Available in multiple wet forms & flavors
- Reduced phosphorus and sodium
- Vet approval required
- Helps support shelter pets
This veterinary prescription diet for dogs has over 1,300 positive reviews and is very popular among pet parents and veterinarians. This is Hill’s dry food option for kidney disease. The formula is low in phosphorus, protein, and sodium to help protect vital kidney function.
Hill’s Prescription is crafted with Enhanced Appetite Trigger (E.A.T.) Technology that works by enhancing appetite and encouraging dogs to eat. A prescription is also needed for this formula. If you have a pup with kidney issues, this one is formulated to promote a urinary environment that reduces the risk of developing struvite and calcium oxalate crystals.
- Prescription diet for kidneys
- Dry kibble formula
- Low phosphorus, protein, and sodium
- Includes wholesome ingredients with more essential amino acids
- Enhanced Appetite Trigger (E.A.T.) Technology
- Clinically proven nutrition
- Over 1,300 positive reviews
This is another popular formula for kidney support in dogs. Blue Buffalo Kidney Support formula is a dry dog food enhanced with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that features controlled protein and mineral levels to support your dog’s kidney health.
We like this veterinary formula for kidney disease because it’s priced affordably and features controlled protein levels to help manage kidney workload. It also starts with high-quality, real chicken as the first ingredient.
The takeaway with this canine kidney support dog food formula is that it also includes vitamins and minerals and features no chicken by-products. There is no corn, wheat, or soy, and no artificial flavors or preservatives in this formula.
Blue Buffalo Kidney Support formula needs a prescription from your veterinarian. This brand also shows you how to transition with a good feeding chart. This is a very affordable option if you’re a multi-pet home or if you’re trying to save money but also want a high-quality canine kidney support formula made with wholesome ingredients.
- Real chicken is the first ingredient
- 3 size options
- Wet or dry food option
- An extensive array of therapeutic formulas to choose from
- No chicken by-products
- Kidney support formula for dogs
- Veterinarian prescription
- No corn, wheat, or soy
- No artificial flavors or preservatives
Purina Pro Plan for kidney function is priced affordably. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function Canine Formula wet dog food is formulated to support kidney function in adult dogs. It features a limited amount of high-quality protein, restricted phosphorus, and reduced sodium to help maintain healthy kidneys.
This formula also has an optimal balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids, essential for maintaining healthy skin and coat. Vet approval is also required for this brand. In addition, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets has developed a wide range of formulas with targeted nutrition for dogs with specific conditions like kidney disease, making feeding a high-quality therapeutic diet easy and affordable.
- Natural veterinary diet
- First ingredient is real chicken
- Veterinary formula
- Added L-Carnitine
- Supports overall canine health and body condition
- Science-backed nutrition
- Restricted phosphorus to help support kidneys
- Limited amount of high-quality protein
- Reduced sodium
Dry Renal Dog Food for Adult Dogs, Forza10 Kidney Dog Food is a gluten-free dog food formulated to help with renal and cardiac problems such as chronic or acute renal failure, congestive heart failure, and conditions requiring low protein and low phosphorus diets.
This hydrolyzed protein dog food is made with Icelandic anchovy and enriched with a mix of natural, therapeutic plants and fruits that makes it taste great. In addition, it contains omega-3 fatty acids to help with kidney failure in dogs and kidney support for dogs.
This formula requires no veterinary prescription and helps to support kidney health, acute renal insufficiency, chronic renal insufficiency, and cardiac insufficiency. Forza is an excellent value-for-money product if you have a pup with kidney issues. There’s also a large variety of other therapeutic formulas for allergies, behavioral support, weight management, and so forth.
- Seafood flavor
- Wet or dry food option
- Hydrolyzed fish
- Contains no chicken
- Veterinary diet for renal issues in dogs
- Low phosphorus and low sodium content
- Crafted with Icelandic anchovy
- Enriched with a mix of natural, therapeutic plants and fruits
- Low-protein dog food
- Corn, wheat, and soy free
- Made in Italy
FAQ’s Best Low Phosphorus Dog Food
Why is it important to feed a low-phosphorus diet to dogs with kidney disease?
VCA Animal Hospital explains that calcium and phosphorus must remain at about a two-to-one (2:1) ratio in the blood. The increase in blood phosphorus level secondary to kidney failure stimulates the parathyroid gland to increase the blood calcium level by removing it from bones. This can be helpful for the sake of the normalizing calcium to phosphorus ratio, but it can make the bones brittle and easily broken.
Additionally, elevated phosphorus levels increase stress on the kidneys and can lead to further decline in kidney function. Therefore, a low-phosphorus diet helps reduce the workload on the kidneys and helps maintain healthy levels of phosphorus in the blood.
What ingredients should be avoided when selecting a low-phosphorus diet for dogs with kidney disease?
Ingredients that should be avoided when selecting a low phosphorus diet for dogs with kidney disease include: red meat, organ meats, dairy products, eggs, whole grains, and processed foods. It is important to read the ingredient labels of all pet foods to ensure that phosphorus levels are in the recommended range for dogs with kidney disease.
Additionally, it is important to avoid treats or table scraps as these can also contain high amounts of phosphorus. Finally, it is essential to consult a veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet. A veterinarian can make specific dietary recommendations to help support your dog’s kidney health.
Dr. Becker Discusses Chronic Kidney Failure in Pets
Video credit: Dr. Becker
Therapeutic low phosphorus diets for dogs
The vet nutrition team at Tufts explains that “The nutritional changes that need to be made depend on the severity of kidney disease, but in general, pets with kidney disease should be fed diets reduced in phosphorus, protein, and sodium and supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil. “
Tufts adds that it is essential to feed a low phosphorus diet to keep the pet’s blood phosphorus low, which is thought to slow the progression of kidney disease and improve survivaDietary modifications for chronic kidney disease (CKD) include restricted phosphorus, protein, and sodium.
This is beneficial in mitigating many metabolic changes resulting from decreased kidney function. Special diets for CKD also allow for alkaline urine and usually contain B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.
If you’re looking to feed your pup a therapeutic diet with modifications, in most cases, your veterinarian can give you a prescription. Most commercial diets don’t work well for kidney disease because they’re too high in phosphorous and protein.
They are also most likely to be acidifying. When combined with drugs to treat and reduce kidney disease, feeding the right low-phosphorous diet can significantly impact survival.
Tufts explains that “As the kidneys are responsible for getting rid of the waste products from protein in the diet, diets for pets with kidney disease have lower amounts of protein to minimize the buildup of waste products in the blood as the kidneys fail, which can make your pet feel quite sick.”
Tufts also adds that a low-protein diet is essential if your pet has protein loss in their urine because lower-protein diets reduce protein loss, improving survival time. In addition to feeding a lower protein diet, you should also not provide high protein treats with meat, jerky, and so forth.
High sodium diets
The Tufts nutrition team says that this type of diet may increase blood pressure and worsen kidney damage, so diets designed for dogs with kidney disease are always low in sodium. Treats containing large amounts of salt need to be avoided, and you should opt for treats with less than 1 mg sodium per calorie (kcal) to be on the safe side.
Omega -3 fatty acids from fish oil
Numerous diets for pets with kidney disease contain fish oil, or you can add fish oil as a supplement if your dog food does not have it. When doing so, reach out to your veterinarian beforehand to find out more about the best dose and brand with a good quality control system.
DVM360 explains that you should use a “total dose (DHA plus EPA) of about 300 mg per 10 lb. body weight. ” They add that although numerous commercial renal diets feature varying amounts of fish oil, you can include 300 mg per 10 lb. of body weight if your formula contains no fish oil, or you can calculate the total fish oil intake amount from the diet alone and then add a pet fish oil to get the desired dose.
The takeaway with protein content in dry dog food is that phosphorus is linked to protein content. To limit phosphorus content, you should limit protein content too. So it’s impossible to limit phosphorus without limiting protein.
Most pets with kidney disease do best with low protein intake. This is also controversial; no studies indicate that dietary protein harms the kidneys. That said, DVM360 adds that ” nitrogenous compounds build up in the bloodstream when GFR is markedly compromised, and decreasing dietary protein can reduce the effects of these toxins on other systems, thus improving patients’ quality of life.” Less protein consumption means less need for excretion via the kidneys. This helps to preserve kidney function.
If your pup has a liver that has been affected by too many toxins, as with senior dogs, you need to be careful when detoxing since you can damage the liver further.
Detoxing the liver involves removing toxins from the body and back into the bloodstream. If detoxing takes place too quickly, similar to that which takes place during fasting, then an older liver can become overwhelmed.
What is phosphorus?
The most critical nutritional modification in patients with renal disease is phosphorus restriction. Phosphorus is a mineral found in many foods, including meat and dairy products. It’s necessary for normal bone development and kidney function.
However, when kidney disease develops, phosphorus levels can become imbalanced. This imbalance can cause an accumulation of toxins that further damage the kidneys. If your pup suffers from kidney disease, your vet will recommend a kidney diet that includes low-phosphorus dog food.
DVM360 says that reduced glomerular filtration rate (GFR) in CKD leads to decreased renal excretion of phosphorus. Hyperphosphatemia, in turn, leads to increased secretion of parathyroid hormone, leading to increased release of calcium and phosphorus from bone. Soft tissue mineralization, renal damage progression, and marked bone loss are potential consequences.
Studies show that feeding according to a pet’s specific health needs and according to their underlying health issues and symptoms like test results, muscle condition score, and body condition score is vital.
Conflicting nutritional goals and therapeutic diets for pets
Sometimes nutritional goals for dogs can conflict with one another, like when a dog needs to gain weight but also suffers from digestive issues and needs a low-fat diet. In this case, you should work with your veterinarian to prioritize the most serious health issues and ensure that your pup enjoys his dog food.
Finding the Right Low-Phosphorous Dog Food
For kidney disease, look for a formula with phosphorus levels below 375 mg/100 kcal on the guaranteed analysis label or 0.8% on a dry matter basis. You should also ensure the protein content is moderate to low, around 14-20% on a dry matter basis.
- Protein: 14-20%
- Phosphorus: 0.2-0.5%
- Sodium: < 0.3%
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 0.4%-2.5%
Finding the proper kidney diet can be challenging when your pup suffers from kidney disease. These kidney diets offer balanced nutrition with moderate protein content and low phosphorus levels to help protect kidney health.
Make sure to talk to your vet before making any dietary changes. In addition, you can help your pup stay healthy and happy with the proper kidney diet. Take your time when considering a CKD diet, and work with your veterinarian for the best course of treatment for CKD.
If you think your dog may be suffering from kidney disease, the first step is to visit your veterinarian. They will likely recommend a diet low in phosphorus if they diagnose your pup with CKD. Phosphorus is an essential mineral for dogs, but too much of it can cause damage to the kidneys.
A low-phosphorous diet can help slow down the progression of kidney disease and improve survival rates. The recommended phosphorus content in dog food for dogs with kidney disease or CKD on a dry matter basis is 0.2-0.5%.
Claudia Bensimoun is a writer who specializes in dog content and veterinary topics! Aside from writing for We Love Doodles, Claudia also writes for other major dog blogs like Fido Friendly, Animal Wellness Magazine, and the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA). She has a ghostwritten over 50 different dog e-books. Her passions include animal welfare, veterinary research, and wildlife conservation.
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