All of the sudden your dog starts drinking a lot of water. He needs to go out more frequently to urinate. You also notice that the urine is clearer and less yellow than it used to be. After blood and urine tests your vet tells you your dog’s kidneys are failing and will need a special low protein diet for the rest of its life. You leave the vets office with so many unanswered questions. What is kidney disease? What caused it? Why my dog? What do these treatments do? Why does my dog need a special food? What if my dog won’t eat the food, then what? You need answers.
What is Kidney Disease and Failure?
Kidney disease is a broad word for many possible problems in various parts of the kidneys. These problems interfere with the normal kidney function which is to:
-Produce urine to eliminate body waste
-Eliminate urea, a by-product of protein metabolism, from the body
-Regulate body water to prevent dehydration or over hydration
-Regulate body minerals (sodium, potassium, phosphorus, chloride etc.)
-Regulate body acid
-Produce the hormone erythropoietin that stimulates red blood cell production in the bone marrow
Sick kidneys cannot do their job and causes the problems and symptoms associated with kidney failure:
-Frequent urination of clear urine because the kidneys can’t retain body water
-Increased thirst to balance the water loss from the kidneys
-Salivation, vomiting and poor appetite due to the accumulation of urea in the blood
-Bad breath from infected mouth and tongue sores and ulcers also caused by urea
-High blood pressure due to the inability to release sodium into the urine
-Weakness and neck pain due to potassium loss in the urine
-Muscle, bone and weight loss due to increased body acid
-Anemia due to decreased erythropoietin production (anemia also causes decreased appetite)
What Causes Kidney Disease?
Most types of kidney disease are caused by an unknown autoimmune reaction to kidney cells. Why the body’s own white blood cells turn on the kidney cells and cause irritation or inflammation is completely unknown. It is this inflammation that interferes with normal kidney function.
Which dogs get inflammatory kidney disease?
-Older dogs (10% of kidney patients are over 8 years old)
-Over vaccinated dogs (some research studies suggests that yearly vaccines over stimulate the immune system and may contribute to kidney disease)
There are other causes of kidney disease that can affect dogs of all ages that are not auto-immune:
-Virus and fungus diseases
-Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Aspirin or other drug overdoses
-Birth defects and inherited disorders
How is Kidney Disease Treated?
Signs and symptoms of kidney disease are not recognized until 75% of total kidney function is lost. Not even blood and urine tests can signal the problem until it has progressed this far. In other words, we don’t know dogs have kidney disease until they are in kidney failure. Short of kidney transplants, there is no way to stop kidney disease or failure. There are ways to improve the quality and lengthen the life of kidney failure patients.
The care for kidney failure tries to reduce the symptoms, slow the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life. Care includes:
-Periodic fluid therapy, intravenously or under the skin, to dilute blood urea and help flush it into the urine
-Medications to control vomiting, increase appetite and treat blood pressure
-Erythropoietin hormone replacement (injections)
-Mineral replacement (potassium)
-What is the Best Food for Dogs with Kidney Disease?
Diet is very important in minimizing the symptoms and slowing the progression of kidney failure. Kidney diets are:
-High carbohydrates that are low in phosphorus
Minimizing protein and phosphorus helps:
-Decreases urea production and the problems associated with high urea (see above in Symptoms)
-Decreases phosphorus which is known to accelerate kidney failure
Dogs typically don’t like food that is low in protein and high in carbohydrates, especially the less tasty, single formula veterinary kidney diets. Homemade dog food provides more flexibility to choose meats and carbohydrates that are more appealing. High levels of fat, especially the grease from fried or broiled, tasty meats like bacon, chicken, beef and fish, also improve appetite and provide necessary calories without adding protein or phosphorus to the diet. Fish oil supplements not only add flavor but the omega-3 fats, DHA and EPA, reduce inflammation and help slow kidney failure.
Because homemade recipes for kidney disease are lifetime diets, they must be carefully formulated to limit protein and phosphorus yet meet the dog’s needs for essential amino acids and phosphorus. These diets also need a complete vitamin and mineral supplement that not only meets all of their dietary needs but adds extra potassium and limits sodium.
Hearthstone Homemade has many tasty recipes and the supplements necessary to meet the needs of kidney failure patients, slow the disease and improve their quality of life.
Here are other articles you might find helpful about kidney disease and homemade dog food:
Dr. Ken Tudor,
THE DOG DIETITIAN