Any sort of kidney disease can be a debilitating diagnosis for a canine. Luckily, any pet owner can manage this illness through a change in diet.
Dogs with kidney problems need to have a low-protein diet to support their kidneys. These formulas can be hard to find. Fortunately, there are dog foods that fit your canine’s dietary needs.
We’ll be discussing these specialized diets for kidney disease in this article. Let’s take a look at the most popular and effective kidney disease diets we found for your pup:
Table of Contents
Top 6 Picks for Best Dog Food for Kidney Disease in 2021
|Dog Food for Kidney Disease||Our Rating|
|Best Overall Dog Food for Kidney Disease (Editor’s Choice)||Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet Kidney Support for Dogs
|Best Budget Dog Food for Kidney Disease||Purina Pro Plan NF Kidney Function Veterinary Diets Formula
|Best Dry Dog Food for Adult Dogs with Kidney Disease||Royal Canin Renal Support Veterinary Diet Dry Dog Food
|Best Wet Dog Food for Adult Dogs with Kidney Disease||Hill’s Prescription Diet K/D Chicken & Vegetable Stew
|Best Dry Dog Food for Senior Dogs with Kidney Disease||Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Chicken Meal, Barley & Brown Rice Recipe
|Best Wet Dog Food for Senior Dogs with Kidney Disease||Royal Canin Mature Adult in Gel Canned Dog Food
Best Foods for a Dog with Kidney Disease (by Life Stage)
Kidney disease is most common in senior dogs. But it can occur in adult dogs as well. Here are some dog foods that are suitable for adult dogs with kidney disease.
Of course, you should also work with your vet to figure out which diet is most appropriate for your canine.
Best Dry Dog Food for Kidney Disease for Adult Dogs
If you choose dry dog food for your pup, any of these foods is a suitable option.
1. Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet Kidney Support for Dogs
Our Rating: 5
Top Ingredients: Chicken (deboned), Potato Starch, Pea Starch
The Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet is designed with controlled levels of protein to help manage kidney disease.
It is a veterinary diet with low phosphorus content and sodium levels, ensuring that your dog’s kidneys have it as easy as possible.
- Deboned chicken as the first ingredient
- Added antioxidants
- No grains included
- Kibble is a bit big for smaller dogs
2. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function Formula
Our Rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Whole Grain Corn, Brewer’s Rice, Dried Egg Products
The Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets is specifically formulated for dogs with kidney problems.
It is low in protein, which is exactly what dogs with kidney problems need. It also features antioxidants and vitamins to boost your dog’s immune health.
- Crafted by nutritionists and researchers
- Has a restricted level of high-quality protein
- Includes low-quality ingredients, like sugar
- No animal protein source included
3. Royal Canin Renal Support Veterinary Diet Dry Dog Food
Our Rating: 4.7
Top Ingredients: Brewers Rice, Corn, Chicken Fat
This formula is designed to help take some of the stress from your dog’s kidneys. This diet is energy-dense, so it supports quite a bit of nutrition in only a little amount of food.
- Energy-dense to compensate for a decreased appetite
- Antioxidants and fatty acids included
- Low phosphorus
- First ingredient is brewers rice which is a low-quality ingredient
4. Hill’s Prescription Diet K/D with Chicken Kidney Care Dog Food
Our Rating: 4.7
Top Ingredients: Brown Rice, Brewers Rice, Pork Fat
While kidney damage is irreversible, this diet can help lessen the extent of kidney disease over time. It features controlled levels of phosphorus, sodium, and protein.
- Includes essential amino acids
- Made to support a dog’s appetite and increase food consumption
- Contains brewers rice which is considered a low-quality ingredient and a known allergen
5. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Urinary SO Small Breed Dry Dog Food
Our Rating: 4.4
Top Ingredients: Brewer’s Rice, Corn, Chicken Fat
This food is not explicitly designed for kidney disease. However, it is pretty low in protein and may be suitable for some dogs with kidney problems.
Plus, it is also designed for small breeds specifically, which is unique among the dog foods for kidney disease out there.
- Adaptable kibble size encourages chewing to reduce tartar build-up
- Reduces the number of trips outside needed
- Maximum phosphorus content is higher compared to other urinary/kidney care dog food
6. Instinct Grain-Free Recipe with Real Lamb
Our Rating: 4
Top Ingredients: Lamb Meal, Lamb, Tapioca
While this food is recommended for dogs with early signs of renal failure, it is not specifically designed for kidney disease.
But because of its restricted ingredients, this formula is easy on your pup’s kidney function and metabolism.
- High levels of omega fatty acids promote immune health
- Limited-ingredient diet
- Made with grass-fed lamb
- High in protein
Best Canned Dog Food for Kidney Disease for Adult Dogs
Canned dog food is often a good choice for dogs with kidney disease, as they contain greater water content. But it is essential to choose a quality canned dog food with a kidney-friendly formula.
7. Hill’s Prescription Diet K/D Chicken & Vegetable Stew Kidney Care
Our Rating: 4.6
Top Ingredients: Water, Chicken, Carrots
This canned food is specifically designed for dogs with kidney disease. It is tasty, which is important for dogs that have lost some of their appetites.
It is made with everything a dog with kidney disease needs, including low-protein and controlled phosphorus levels.
- Made with low sodium
- Develop by nutritionists and veterinarians
- Includes l-carnitine and omega-3 fatty acids
8. Purina Pro Plan NF Kidney Function Veterinary Diets Formula
Our Rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Water, Meat By-Products, Rice
This food is designed to support your dog’s kidneys, plus it tastes great! It is full of healthy antioxidants and has a reduced level of sodium. It is made in collaboration with nutritionists, researchers, and veterinarians.
- Specifically formulated for kidney disease
- Features a reduced level of sodium
- Restricted levels of high-quality protein and phosphorus content
- Includes unidentified meat-by products
9. Hill’s Prescription Diet K/D Kidney Care Beef & Vegetable Stew
Our Rating: 4.6
Top Ingredients: Water, Beef, Carrots
This dog food is the beef version of Hill’s Prescription Diet. This formula is specifically designed for dogs with kidney problems. It is suitable for dogs with decreased appetite, as it is very energy-dense.
- Includes high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and essential amino acids
- Suitable for picky eaters
Best Dry Dog Food for Kidney Disease for Senior Dogs
Senior dogs often develop kidney disease, as chronic kidney failure is linked to aging. You will find kidney-friendly formulas are usually very common for this age group.
10. Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Chicken Meal, Barley & Brown Rice Recipe
Our Rating: 4.3
Top Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Cracked Pearled Barley, Brewers Rice
This dog food is designed for older canines who need help managing their weight. It isn’t explicitly designed for kidney disease, but it is quite low in protein, so it is suitable for dogs with renal failure.
- Omega-6 fatty acids included nourishing your pet’s skin
- No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
- Specifically formulated for senior dogs
- Contains wheat and other grains not suitable for dogs with gluten intolerance
Best Canned Dog Food for Kidney Disease for Senior Dogs
Canned food is sometimes more suitable for older dogs than dry food, especially if they need to increase their moisture intake or have dental problems.
11. Royal Canin Mature Adult in Gel Canned Dog Food
Our Rating: 4.5
Top Ingredients: Water, Pork By-Products, Pork Liver
This dog food is not specifically designed for kidney disease. However, it is one of the better foods for senior dogs, and it is decently low in protein.
- The formula stimulates appetite in poor eaters
- Includes fish oil and an array of B-vitamins
- Contains biotin for healthy nervous system function
- Non-chelated minerals, which means they can be difficult to absorb
What Causes Kidney Disease in Dogs?
A huge variety of factors causes kidney disease. It occurs when at least one of the kidney’s functions is reduced and can be diagnosed at any point during the kidneys’ decline.
However, it’s usually undetectable until the kidney function drops to 33% or 25% of its original capacity.
There are two main types of kidney disease: chronic and acute.
Acute kidney disease can be caused when the dog ingests a toxin or takes certain medications. It can happen very quickly and can be caused by some outside source, such as antifreeze, bad food, or a toxic plant.
Certain infections and diseases can also cause it. For instance, severe urinary tract infections can end up infecting the kidneys, which can cause them to start failing.
A decrease in blood and oxygen to the kidneys can also cause them to fail. Usually, this is caused by dehydration, physical injuries, or heat stroke.
Chronic kidney disease is different because it comes about slowly and may not have one main cause. Instead, chronic disease is simply the kidneys wearing out, though it can be spurred on by certain factors too.
Senior dogs are at a higher risk for kidney disease. Their kidneys have simply gone through more and are older, making them more likely to have diminished function.
Dental infections can also directly affect the kidneys, which can cause chronic kidney failure. When your dog has dental disease, the infection can easily access your pet’s bloodstream, which can spread around the body.
The bacteria can affect the kidneys in this way since their job is to clean the blood.
While acute kidney disease can usually be reversed when the underlying problem is solved, chronic kidney disease is not curable.
In some cases, acute kidney disease may become chronic kidney disease if the kidneys do not completely regain their complete function.
Possible Disease or Conditions That Can Lead to Kidney Failure
Most frequently, kidney issues are attributed to toxins or bacteria build-up. But kidney failure can be caused by a variety of conditions, as well. These include:
- Severe Dehydration
- Snake Bites
- Leptospirosis (a type of bacterial infection)
- Genetic disorders
- Autoimmune diseases
What Happens When Your Dog Has Kidney Disease?
When the dog’s kidneys are no longer filtering out the blood as efficiently as they usually do, its body will try to compensate. The flow of blood to the kidneys will increase in an effort to improve filtration.
But because the kidneys will continue to fail, the blood flow will have to continue to increase. This results in the increased production of urine, which will cause them to urinate more often.
As the volume of urine increases, the amount of water the dog drinks will also increase. This will lead to excessive water consumption.
However, while increased thirst and urination are the two most common symptoms of early kidney failure, they’re usually not noticed by other dog owners. Thus, the kidneys continue to decline.
After about ⅔ of the kidneys’ function has declined, there’s a swift rise of waste products the kidneys are not filtering out.
Their body can no longer compensate for the decreased kidney function. Often, the dog appears to go downhill very quickly.
Signs of Kidney Disease in Dogs
Most pet parents don’t notice that their dog is suffering from kidney disease until it has already progressed. So here’s a shortlist of the possible symptoms that you should watch out for:
- Weight Loss
- Pale Gums
- Chemical smell in breath
- Decrease in appetite
- Change in water intake
- Change in urination
- Ulcers in mouth
- Uncoordinated behavior, like pointless wandering and stumbling
Both acute and chronic kidney failure have the same symptoms. However, acute kidney failure will get worse much more quickly. It may also be accompanied by seizures, as the toxin affects the brain.
What’s the Best Way to Diagnose Kidney Disease in Dogs?
Usually, kidney failure is diagnosed through the use of urinalysis and blood chemistry tests. Both of these tests can help determine the kidneys’ health.
The earliest sign of kidney disease is a low urine specific gravity (USG). If a dog is thought to be in the early stages of kidney disease, a urinalysis will likely be used to check for this particular indicator.
Furthermore, if there is a significant increase of protein in the urine, it can also suggest kidney disease.
A blood biochemistry analysis will often be used, as well, as it can detect the functioning of different internal organs. Vets will look at two specific contaminators in the blood: blood creatinine (CREA) and blood urea nitrogen (BUN).
If the kidneys aren’t functioning properly, both of these waste products will be higher than average.
Other measurements that may be used include checking the potassium, albumin, globulin, sodium, calcium, and phosphorus.
Red and white blood cell counts can also be important in figuring out the range of the damage and the best path forward.
There are also some up-and-coming tests for renal failure. For instance, a recently developed test looks at the level of SDMA in the dog’s blood, which can be used to determine if a dog is experiencing early kidney disease.
Dogs that are undergoing compensated kidney failure will usually have average levels of many chemicals. However, their urine-specific gravity will be relatively low.
It’s important to determine if a dog has compensated kidney failure, as any stress on the kidneys can send the dog over the edge. Early treatment is best when possible.
Kidney Disease and Other Health Complications
The kidneys help the whole body to work properly. When your dog has kidney disease, they might also have problems with the rest of the body. Here are other several health complications of kidney disease:
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Liver Failure
Buyer’s Guide: The Best Dog Food for Kidney Disease
When choosing a dog food formulation for kidney disease, there are several things that you need to keep in mind. Because of their condition, your dog needs a balanced renal diet to support their overall health.
Here are several kidney diet-specific dietary components you’ll need to look out for.
Things to Check When Selecting Dog Food for Kidney Disease: What should dogs eat?
Because the kidneys have to filter out everything your dog eats, what your dog eats can significantly impact the function of their kidneys.
One of the main treatments of kidney disease in dogs is a precise dietary formulation.
Dogs that eat a specific diet for kidney health can live much longer than those that don’t and have a higher quality of life. It is crucial to work with your vet to determine the best diet for your canine and to stick with it.
Most dogs with kidney disease will need to be fed a diet low in phosphorus, protein, and sodium.
The phosphorus or phosphate content is particularly important to keep an eye on. It’s essential to keep your dog’s phosphorus levels low to protect the kidneys.
Renal diets typically have pretty low protein levels. And the protein your dog eats needs to be bioavailable and high-quality.
For dogs with protein in their urine, it can be a sign that your dog is eating far too much protein. A low-protein diet may be particularly helpful.
Some dogs with kidney disease will benefit from added omega-3 fatty acids, which will usually come from fish oil. However, this critical nutrient can come from a variety of other ingredients as well.
Fish oil is helpful because it is thought to reduce the inflammatory response that can further damage the kidneys.
Furthermore, it may help the kidneys become more efficient at removing protein from the bloodstream, though more studies are necessary to confirm this theory.
Dog foods containing fish like salmon may be beneficial since these formulas will automatically contain fish oil.
Your vet may also recommend a non-acidifying diet. Dogs with renal disease often become too acidic, which can cause kidney damage and other problems.
What to avoid when choosing dog food for kidney disease
The kidneys have to work hard to filter a lot of things out of the blood, so some ingredients from your dog’s diet need to be considerably reduced. You don’t want your pet to ingest foods with toxins or additives.
You also don’t want too much protein content, as this can be harmful to dogs with CKD. However, too little protein can upset your dog’s overall health.
Talk with your vet about the perfect amount of protein for your canine, as this will differ from dog to dog.
Avoid feeding your dog high-protein treats, like meat, jerky, rawhides, chews, pig ears, and cheese.
Similarly, you should avoid treats with high sodium levels. This includes cheese and deli meats. Many types of commercial dog treats will be pretty high in sodium, so be sure to check.
High sodium diets can increase a dog’s blood pressure, similar to people. High blood pressure can damage the kidneys. If your dog’s kidneys are already damaged, high blood pressure is essential to avoid.
Dry Food vs. Wet Food
When it comes to dry vs. wet food, it really depends on the dog. Many dogs can continue to eat whatever they have been eating.
However, your dog needs wet dog food in some cases, especially if they need to increase their moisture intake.
A very small subset of dogs may stop drinking as much, though. These dogs, in particular, will benefit from the wet food.
Specifically, here’s a quick list of the values to look for when choosing dog food for your pet with kidney disease:
- Protein: 14 – 20%
- Phosphorus: 0.2 – 0.5%
- Sodium: Below 0.3%
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: 0.4 – 2.5%
When choosing a dog food, you should still ensure that it is calorie-dense. Many dogs with kidney disease have decreased appetite, but it is important to support your dog’s overall health.
It is important to keep an eye on your pet’s weight to ensure they aren’t losing weight.
Because of these appetite problems, many people decide to add extra ingredients to their dog’s food to encourage them to eat it.
However, you should be careful regarding what you add to the food, as you don’t want to add anything high in protein or sodium. Safe, common additions include water, tuna juice, and low-sodium chicken broth.
Do Dogs Need Grain-free Food for Kidney Disease?
There’s no medical reason for a dog with kidney disease to need a grain-free diet. In fact, many dog foods for kidney disease are quite high in grains, as they need to be low in protein.
Grains are not particularly high in sodium, so they are sometimes a good choice for dogs with kidney disease.
Furthermore, there’s little health benefit to choosing a grain-free food unless your canine has a gluten intolerance. If your dog is sensitive to gluten, you should absolutely avoid grains.
It’s essential to keep your dog healthy by avoiding their allergens, especially if they’re fighting kidney disease.
However, for other dogs, there’s little benefit to a grain-free diet. In normal situations, grain-free diets usually don’t contain more protein or meat.
Instead, they are filled with inexpensive veggies like peas and potatoes instead of the wheat or rice the company would typically use.
Some of these veggies may be linked to certain health conditions. The FDA is currently investigating a connection between grain-free diets that are high in peas, lentils, or potatoes and a specific kind of heart disease.
If your dog has kidney disease, you aren’t looking for a food that’s higher in meat or protein either. For this reason, there is little reason to choose grain-free food.
Instead of focusing on grain-free vs. grain-inclusive when it comes to dog food that’s designed for kidney disease, you should rather choose a food that is most suitable for kidney disease.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How can you help your dog with kidney disease?
During the first phase, provide your dog with plenty of fluids. This helps flush the kidneys, which may revive mildly damaged kidney cells.
The kidneys may start functioning better after this, though they will continue to decline afterward.
This also creates a healthier environment in the kidneys, which may stop some of the damage for a short time.
It’s also possible that this method will not return any kidney function or that the returned kidney function will be short-lived.
Once the first stage of treatment is completed, nutrition becomes very important. A correct diet is essential for a dog’s overall health and longevity.
Food that is lower in protein than the average adult maintenance diet will help reduce metabolic waste, which can make your pet feel better.
There are many therapeutic diets available for pets with kidney disease for this reason. As we discussed in this article, there are many options you can choose from.
How can you switch your dog to a renal-supportive diet?
NEVER switch your dog’s diet immediately, as this can cause stomach upset. Instead, you want to slowly switch out the old food with the new food as your canine tolerates it.
How much of the new food you start with depends mainly on your pet’s size. Preferably, you should switch out ¼ of your dog’s diet with the new food.
Then, slowly increase this by ¼ every few days until your dog completely eats the new food.
Can you give homemade food for kidney disease to your dog?
Kidney disease requires a particular diet, which is challenging to do when cooking it at home. You can work with your vet to make great homemade food.
However, it’s usually better to go with a commercial diet that is designed for kidney disease.
Here’s a recipe you can try at home:
What you need:
- One cup of chopped chicken (boiled)
- One mashed boiled egg
- A quarter cup of steamed carrots
- Plain yogurt (2 tbsp)
- A quarter cup of green beans
- A quarter cup of cooked brown rice
All you need to do is combine all the ingredients in one bowl and it’s ready to serve to your pup. You may also add other vegetables like sweet potato or pumpkin.
Just make sure that the ingredients are chopped into bite-size pieces for your dog.
What human food can dogs with kidney disease eat?
Dogs with kidney disease can eat some human food. However, choose low-protein foods—things like fruits and veggies, which are very low in protein.
You should avoid feeding your dog things like meat and cheese, as these things are full of protein and can upset your pet’s kidneys.
Also, aim for low-sodium treats, which fruits and veggies also fall into. Stay away from things like deli meats and preserved foods, which are high in sodium.
Not sure which fruits to feed your dog? Watch this video to find out which fruits are great for your pup:
Should you give supplements to your dog who has kidney disease?
You should always consult with your vet before giving your pet any supplement. Some can upset the kidneys, which is the last thing you want.
Fish oil supplement is recommended. Fish oil is thought to relieve some of the inflammation of the kidneys, which can help them be more efficient.
Which Dog Food for Kidney Disease Should You Pick?
While there are several kidney diseases available, a few stood out on top. For adult dogs with kidney disease, we recommend Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet Kidney Support for Dogs.
It has high-quality ingredients while still remaining low in protein and sodium. It is designed specifically for dogs with kidney disease as well.
Senior dogs are very prone to kidney disease. Out of all the pet foods we reviewed, Royal Canin Mature Adult in Gel Canned Dog Food came to the top as the best. It includes omega fatty acids and B-vitamins as well.
Kidney disease requires nutrition to give your dog’s body a break and slow the progression of kidney disease. For this reason, switching to an appropriate diet is essential to your pet’s health.
Does your dog suffer from kidney problems? Let us know in the comments below which dog food for kidney disease worked best for them.
Further Reading: Solutions for Other Health Concerns