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What should i feed my dog with kidney disease?

If your dog has been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, feeding them a diet prescribed by your vet is going to be a key element of their treatment. For dogs with kidney disease, our Orange County vets may recommend a therapeutic diet with restricted protein, phosphorus and sodium combined with increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids. 

What is chronic kidney disease or kidney failure?

Chronic kidney disease can go by a number of names including chronic kidney failure, chronic renal disease, chronic renal failure and CKD. When your dog's kidneys are healthy they perform a number of essential tasks including filtering out toxins from the blood. Chronic kidney disease is the gradual decline in the ability of your dog's kidneys to work effectively. If your dog experiences kidney failure the kidneys are no longer able to perform this function sufficiently and toxins gradually begin to accumulate. While there is no cure for chronic kidney disease in dogs, in many cases the condition can be managed through a therapeutic diet, so that your dog can enjoy a good quality of life for many months. 

How is chronic kidney disease treated in dogs?

Depending on the progression and severity of your dog's kidney disease your vet will recommend treatment that may include a combination of dietary restrictions and medications. The primary purpose of the medications is to help reduce the symptoms of the disease whereas a therapeutic diet is designed to help slow the progression of the disease and help to reduce the workload placed on the kidneys. 

What is a therapeutic diet for chronic kidney disease?

A typical therapeutic diet for dogs suffering from chronic kidney disease will contain reduced amounts of protein, phosphorus and sodium combined with increased amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and in some cases potassium.


While reducing the amount of protein in a dog's diet remains controversial, there are two main goals behind reducing protein for dogs with chronic kidney disease. The first goal is to help lower the amount of waste produced during protein metabolism and the second is to  minimize the amount of protein entering the filtration system of the kidneys.

Essentially this means that feeding a diet with reduced levels of protein may help to reduce the workload placed on your dog's kidneys, in turn possibly helping to preserve kidney function.


When the kidneys begin to fail, the concentration of phosphorus in their blood becomes elevated. Elevated concentrations of phosphorus have been linked to a number of negative side effects such as vitamin D deficiency, and reduced ability for your dog's body to metabolize calcium.  If your dog has chronic kidney disease, normalizing blood phosphorus concentrations through their diet may help to slow the progression of the disease.

It's important to note that the phosphorus level in dog foods is directly related to the food's protein level. In order to reduce the phosphorus in your dog's diet it will be necessary to also restrict their intake of protein. It is also important to note that normalizing your dog's blood phosphorus levels through diet alone is typically only successful if the kidney disease is diagnosed and treated early, medications will also be necessary in later stages.


Reducing sodium in the diet of dogs with chronic kidney disease is also a common dietary approach to treating the condition. Reducing sodium can be helpful in lessening the workload on the kidneys, as well as helping your dog to maintain normal blood pressure. Reducing sodium in your dog's diet will likely require special attention to the treats you offer your pet since jerky and cheese slices are typically very high in sodium.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help slow the progression of chronic kidney disease in dogs by reducing the production of inflammatory compounds that create oxidative stress to the kidneys. Dog foods with higher levels of omega-3 often contain salmon which many dogs enjoy, or are supplemented with fish oil, or flaxseed oil.

What is the best food to feed my dog with chronic kidney disease?

Following your dog's diagnosis of chronic kidney disease, your vet will recommend the best food to help your dog fight the progression of the disease. Every dog is different, and the food recommended for your dog will depend on the severity of the disease, how far it has progressed, as well as your dog's overall health and age.

Most dog foods available through standard pet stores are likely to contain levels of protein and phosphorus that are too high for dogs with chronic kidney disease, however there are a number of prescription foods available from your veterinarian. Prescription diets have been specially formulated to meet all of your dog's dietary requirements while also offering restricted protein, phosphorus and sodium. Speak to your veterinarian to find out which food is best for your pet.

If your dog has been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, ask your vet for a referral to Veterinary Medical And Surgical Group–OC (VMSG-OC) in Orange County. Our board-certified veterinary internal medicine specialist offers advanced care for pets suffering from conditions such as kidney disease.

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Veterinary Medical And Surgical Group–OC (VMSG-OC) accepts new clients to our specialty services and 24/7 emergency services.

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