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The truth about renal diets for dogs with kidney disease

If your dog has recently been diagnosed with renal (kidney) disease you will be anxious to know what steps you can take to minimise your dog’s suffering. Providing an appropriate diet designed specifically for renal disease sufferers is arguably the simplest way for you, as an owner, to positively impact on your dog’s quality of life.

Although the inconvenience and expense of purchasing these ‘prescription diet’ foods is often greater than the regular canned food or dry kibble you are used to feeding your dog, vets argue that they are genuinely effective  in the fight against kidney disease.

The advent of these foods in recent years has had a significant and positive impact on the lives of vast numbers or dogs suffering from renal disease, and vets almost universally advise their use as an essential part of the treatment regime. For these reasons it is important for owners to understand how kidney foods work to support their beloved dog.

There are two primary mechanisms by which these foods work.


1)      Low quantity, high quality protein content

Special kidney foods contain less protein than regular foods. However, although present in lesser amounts, the protein that is used in them is of a higher quality than that in a normal diet. Many of the toxic waste products that the kidneys remove from the bloodstream are the result of protein breakdown; less protein in the diet means a reduced amount of waste for the kidneys to process.


2)      Restricted phosphate content

Reduced phosphate content will help to protect the kidneys from further damage, thereby slowing the progression of kidney disease. Restricting the dietary phosphate content also helps to reduce the incidence of calcification of various body tissues, including the kidneys.


Whilst understanding each of these aspects of renal diets, the most important point is that research has shown that foods meeting these criteria can provide significant benefits to your dog in terms of improving their clinical condition and decreasing the levels of the toxins in the bloodstream that your vet uses to monitor the progression of renal disease.


Choosing the right food


Dogs with renal failure are often elderly and normally have oral pain and a reduced appetite; therefore, highly palatable food is essential.


It is important to consult your vet before changing your dog’s diet – this is especially true of patients with other diseases as well. In some cases the other condition also requires a special diet, and should take precedence over dietary modification specific to the kidney problem. Most vets will also have some preference for a specific brand or brands. The list below outlines the diets available:


  • Hills K/D Canine Clinically proven to help maintain quality of life in kidney patients.
    • Helps to neutralise free radicals as it contains high level of antioxidants.
    • Clinically proven to help dogs with chronic kidney failure show fewer signs of disease


  • Royal Canin VetClinical Royal Canin Renal Canine Dry
    • specially designed to reduce clinical signs of uraemia (byreducing protein breakdown), minimise electrolyte, vitamin and mineral disturbance and help to slow down the progression of renal failure (reduced phosphorus) while maintaining the animal's nutritional requirements.


  • Royal Canin Veterinary Clinical Renal Canine Wet
    • In chronic renal failure (CRF), the kidneys are no longer able to properly eliminate phosphorus which contributes to progression of the disease. Limiting the dietary phosphorus intake is an essential part of nutritional support
      • Flavanols (a particular type of green tea polyphenol) have two major actions: they neutralise free radicals and help maintain renal perfusion.
      • A higher intake of long chain omega 3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA) helps to maintain the glomerular filtration rate.
      • Uraemia may induce the development of gastric and intestinal mucosal ulcers. Zeolite forms a film that protects the digestive mucosa and helps neutralise toxic substances; Fructo-Oligo-Saccharides stimulate the growth of a beneficial digestive flora helping to support mucosal health.



  • Eukanuba Special Care Renal Phase I
    • Nutritional Kidney Formula Advanced Stage is designed to address the nutritional needs of your dog once kidney failure has been identified by your veterinarian. It provides appropriate amounts of protein to help your dog maintain overall condition, plus special ingredients to minimize wastes building up in the bloodstream.


  • Eukanuba Cat Renal Formula
    • Nutritional Kidney Formula Multi-Stage Renal is designed to address the nutritional needs of your cat once kidney failure has been identified by your veterinarian. It provides appropriate amounts of protein to help your cat maintain overall condition, plus special ingredients to help minimize the buildup of wastes in the bloodstream.


Correcting dehydration is an essential objective in management of patients with renal failure. In order to encourage as much fluid consumption as possible it is worth considering use of a wet diet, as a dry food has a negligible water content. 


If a special kidney diet is recommended for your dog it is important to note that some animals will demonstrate a preference for one brand over another. If the first kidney food you offer your dog is not met with enthusiasm do not despair, talk to your vet about which other brands might be suitable. These foods are designed with palatability in mind; it is probable that your dog will like one of the other options available.


This article is intended as a guide only. Always seek advice from your veterinary surgeon prior to changing your dog’s diet.