If your canine companion has been diagnosed with kidney disease, your veterinarian probably recommended a dietary change. Kidney disease, or chronic renal failure, is one of the most common illnesses to afflict older dogs and cats. In response, many of the pet food manufacturers have produced specially formulated diets that are low in protein. These therapeutic diets are designed to put less stress on the kidneys, which can slow the progression of this degenerative condition and extend the life of your furry friend.
Low Protein Means Less Waste
The kidneys have several roles in your dog’s physiological function. Their primary job is to filter wastes from the bloodstream. These wastes result from the body’s metabolism, and many of them come from food. Once the wastes are filtered from the blood, they are expelled from the body as urine. The kidneys of a dog with kidney disease have lost their ability to carry out this function efficiently, and these toxins accumulate faster than the kidneys can remove them. Protein is the primary dietary ingredient from which the many of the metabolic wastes are created. By feeding your dog a diet that is low in protein, the kidneys will have less work to do. Use of higher quality protein sources, such as meat and egg, will also produce less waste than grain or legume-based proteins, such as soy.
The Right Protein Balance
There is a limit to how limited the amount of protein in a diet can go before blood protein levels dip too low. Proteins are the building blocks for cell and tissue regeneration. Some pet food companies have formulated diets that target the different stages of kidney disease. The preparation for early stage kidney disease is lower in protein than regular canine diets, and that for advanced stage kidney disease has an even lower amount of protein. Do not opt to feed a kidney diet to your dog’s young, healthy canine housemate in the hope of protecting him from kidney disease. Feeding a high protein diet does not cause the onset of chronic renal failure, nor does it protect the kidneys from developing the wear and tear that inevitably comes about with age. Since the kidneys have lost much of their function by the time a diagnosis of kidney disease can be made, feeding a high protein diet at that point will hasten their decline.
Additional Low Protein Diet Benefits
In addition to restricted protein content, therapeutic diets for kidney disease also contain reduced phosphorus and sodium. These are additional wastes that the kidneys must filter from the blood. Optimal levels of phosphorus work together with the body’s calcium to maintain strong bones. As the deteriorating kidneys fail to keep up with eliminating phosphorus, the toxin builds up in your dog’s blood. Once the balance of phosphorus and calcium are thrown off, the bones weaken. If sodium levels climb too high, then dehydration and hypertension result. Low protein kidney diets also contain added vitamin B supplementation to try to make up for the loss of B complex that results with failing kidneys. The diets now also contain omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in response to studies that have shown some benefit for patients that consume the healthy oil.
Variety Will Tempt the Tummy
Low protein diets tend to be less palatable for pets. Dogs are more receptive to the dietary change than cats, but if your furry pal is picky, do not despair. Every pet food company that produces prescription diets manufacture their version of a kidney diet, which offers some variation in flavor. Your veterinarian probably does not have the space to stock every one of them, but if you voice your concerns, he will likely be able to special order alternatives. If you prefer to dish up home-cooked meals, ask your veterinarian about a safe and effective low protein diet recipe for your dog. Water intake is especially important in pets with kidney disease, so be sure to always provide fresh water and offer canned variations of the kidney diet to supplement the dry kibble. Whenever you change diets, always wean slowly from your dog’s old food to his new menu.