The term “chronic kidney failure” can be a terrifying phrase for many pet owners, who often assume that this means that the kidneys have stopped working completely. However, while the kidneys are not working to their full potential, they are still functional and can be encouraged to keep working with the help of medication and a controlled diet.
What to feed a dog with kidney failure who will not eat? Alongside any medication and dietary recommendations given to you by the vet, it is important that you make sure the food you are giving your dog is low in phosphorus and low in extra protein, both of which can cause the build up of waste matter in their system and can potentially worsen the condition of the kidneys.
Caring for a dog with kidney failure or kidney disease can seem like a tough task at first but knowing the important ins and outs on what to feed your dog and how can be important to maintaining their health and happiness.
What foods are good for dogs with kidney failure?
Fully functioning kidneys are used to remove excess phosphorus, proteins and sodium from the bloodstream, so with the onset of kidney failure these waste materials aren’t properly filtered and remain in the bloodstream. Because of this, animals with kidney failure need food that does not contain large amounts of phosphorus, protein or sodium, so that stress can be taken off of the kidneys and allow them to perform their functions without any risk of further damage.
There are many different renal dog foods on the market, but it is always recommended to check the label to see how much of each of the reduced minerals and protein is in each meal. The NRC (National Research Council) recommend that no more than 22.25mg of phosphorus should be fed to your dog per day, with less than 14-20% for proteins and less than 1mg of sodium (usually found in salt) per Calorie.
With is reduction in their food, it is important that they are supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil (NOT cod liver oil, as this is inflammatory). These fatty acids are very good for dogs, especially those suffering from heart disease, kidney failure, arthritis and many other long-term health conditions. When buying omega-3 tablets, check the manufacturers website or ask your vet if that particular brand is right for your dog to take.
Notes on feeding
While it is more common in older dogs, having your dog diagnosed with kidney disease or kidney failure doesn’t mean the end of their life, and many animals with the diagnosis can continue to live happily for years afterwards. However, the bad news is that there is no way to repair the damage done to the kidneys, they don’t regenerate like some organs like the liver can; but further damage can be prevented with a few relatively easy lifestyle changes.
Once you have the diagnosis from a vet, it is always recommended that you follow any instructions they have given you for medication or dietary requirements to the letter, as this can be vital to the health of your dog. This involves giving the prescribed medication exactly as instructed, as any changes in the dosage of medication can cause major issues.
- Feeding plan: Instead of giving your dog two large meals a day, it is better to feed them a few small meals spaced throughout the day, making sure the food is fresh every time. This can help if they do not have much of an appetite or are struggling with eating a large meal.
- Avoid treats: While your dog may like the occasional treat, try and avoid giving them too many extra snacks or scraps between meals. This is also generally recommended for most dogs, stopping them from putting on any excess weight that may negatively affect their health.
- Ensure plenty of fresh water: Kidney disease can often increase your dog’s thirst, so make sure they always have access to clean, fresh water at all times, refilling their bowl when you notice it is getting a bit low. Because of this, feeding your dog moist or wet food can also help to quench their thirst.
Dog with renal failure refusing to eat
Loss of appetite is a very common symptom and side effect of kidney disease, but it important for your dog’s health to make sure they are eating enough per day.
If your dog is refusing to eat, or is continuing to eat a worryingly low amount of food, it is recommended that you speak to your vet first, just to make sure that there is no medical reason for this. They may also be able to offer some advice on how to encourage your dog to eat, as well as some kinds of food they may like.
Changing what kind of food you give your dog suddenly could be the reason for why they are not eating, so it is advised to transition them to a renal pet food over the course of a few days (again, on advice from your vet). If your dog doesn’t like the taste of the food, you can try out different brands and flavours of renal dog food, or even add tasty low-sodium treats such as honey, applesauce or fish oil.
Some animals even like the change-up in foods, with their appetite changing per day. You wouldn’t like to eat the same food every day, so make sure you have different options for food ready in case your dog turns its nose up at their usual food.
If your dog enjoys home-cooked food more than out-of-the-packet dog food, there are also many recipes to be found to cater to kidney failure, and it is essential that you make sure that the meal is well balanced and contains no more than the maximum limit of either phosphorus, sodium or protein. A board-certified animal nutritionist is often your best bet for finding suitable recipes, which can be found through your vet’s recommendations or through BalanceIT.com’s recipe finder.
Enticing dog with kidney disease to eat
If your dog is still not eating, then assisted feeding may have to be done at first to encourage them. Never force your dog to eat, as this can stress them out, but through enticement and praise they can be persuaded and helped to regain their appetite.
As mentioned before, moist or wet food is best for dogs with increased thirst, rather than dry foods. Regardless, always make sure you dog has enough water in its bowl to quench itself.
If your dog is unused to a new type of dog food, try hand-feeding your dog small portions of food, warmed to just below body temperature. Over the few days you do this, they will become used to the new taste and be happy to eat out of their bowl. Small treats can also be used to keep them fed during bouts of poor appetite, but large amounts can be unhealthy.
In more extreme cases where an animal either refuses or cannot eat via traditional means, vets can put in esophagostomy tubes, which allows for liquid food and medication to be directly passed into the stomach through a syringe. This is best for animals who suffer from extreme stress during mealtimes, making their quality of life easier.
If you are worried about your dog losing weight, go to the vet sooner rather than later, as treatment such as esophagostomy tubes cannot be fitted into severely emaciated animals. If you are worried about the quality of life of your pet, your vet may have a list of previous esophagostomy patients who can offer advice about caring for your dog.
Are carrots good for dogs with kidney disease?
All dogs love treats, and while giving them out too regularly can be an unhealthy thing especially for animals with renal failure, there are still options out there.
Strangely enough, giving your dog carrots to chew on is actually recommended, being good to chew while also being low in calories and high in vitamins and fibre. Carrots are also a great treat for dogs without kidney disease, not carrying the same risks of splintering or choking as with bones or rawhide. Green beans are also another great choice, although make sure they are fresh with no added salt to keep their sodium levels low.
If your dog enjoys certain human foods as treats, such as peanut butter, then some precautions may need to be taken. Peanut butter contains Vitamin E and H, both of which are great for your dog’s health; however, they also need to be checked for additives, with organic, low-sodium brands being available to give your dog.
When getting treats for your dog, is always advised that you check what foods dogs cannot eat before giving them other kinds of fruit or vegetables, as food like grapes are highly toxic to dogs and can actually trigger kidney failure. Do research and ask your vet for any advice on what not to feed your dog with kidney disease.
Are eggs good for dogs with kidney failure?
Eggs are a great source of protein for dogs, although raw eggs can cause biotin deficiency meaning that cooked eggs are best recommended for your dog to eat. However, for dogs with kidney failure, this protein can have a negative effect on their system; as well as the yolk, which contains high amounts of phosphorus.
Unless your vet tells you that an occasional egg is okay to feed your dog, it is best to avoid giving eggs to dogs with kidney disease, to stay on the safe side. A lot of dairy products, including milk, also contain large amounts of phosphorus and protein.
Green Tripe, made from the inner lining of a cow or bison’s stomach, is rich with nutrients and is great for kidney disease. While it may not be palatable for humans without being boiled, your dog will hopefully love it.
Every animal is different, with different preferences for food and how they eat, so experimenting with a picky animal can go a long way to figure out what your dog will like.
Dog will not eat prescription food
When your dog will not eat medication, hiding it in food is often the go-to way of getting them to take their pills. However, what happens if the medication is the food itself?
A sudden change of food can be a shock to a dog, especially if they have been eating the same thing every day for a long time now. If your vet permits it, perhaps mix together their old food into the new prescription food for a few days, before fully transitioning to the new prescription food entirely.
Sometimes their lack of appetite can simply be because of pickiness, which can be helped through tasty additions such as fish oil or honey, and often the animal just needs to get used to the taste and will soon be happily eating it without any additional dressings. A positive attitude can also do wonders, with positive encouragement telling your dog that the food is good and nice to eat. Acting anxious or concerned about the food may give your dog reason to worry about the contents of the food.
Warm food is usually better than cold, but every animal has different tastes. If you dog turns its nose up at cold food, try warming it up to slightly above room temperature, or vice versa if they aren’t enjoying the warm food.
There may be other reasons for their loss of appetite, such as nausea, so if your dog isn’t eating either its old or new food, your vet may be able to help treat any sickness or appetite loss. Medication-wise, along with feeding tubes, veterinarians can prescribe appetite-enhancing stimulants for animals that are not eating enough to properly fuel themselves to treat their underlying condition.
When looking for the right thing to feed your dog with kidney failure, it is always highly recommended that you consult your vet before taking any steps.
Handy Hint: I recently wrote a guide explaining what to do if your French Bulldog is not eating. Contains the signs to look out for, plus what you can do once they stop eating properly.