Dogs with kidney disease - which food and treats are suitable?

What exactly is kidney disease?

Kidneys in dogs (just as in humans) remove waste substance from the blood, and maintain the balance of minerals and fluid in the body.

Renal Disease - this describes any condition which damages the kidneys.

Kidney disease is classified in two ways; acute and chronic.

Acute means the condition is a complication of another condition/instance such as your dog eating something toxic or maybe kidney stones or cancer.

An acute case means that symptoms can appear quickly and be severe. However, if caught early your vet can sometimes treat and resolve the issue.

Chronic cases are irreversible and long-term (such as age related.)

Your dog may only display symptoms when damage has already occurred to much of the kidney tissue, but the condition, depending on the severity of damage, can be slowed.

How do you detect kidney disease in dogs?

A simple blood test will tell your vet that your dog's kidneys are damaged. However, it's sometimes quite difficult to detect when the kidneys are starting to deteriorate.

Look out for these signs:

  • Increased thirst and toilet stops (increased for your dog in particular)
  • A loss of appetite or change in eating habits
  • Loosing weight
  • Bad breath
  • Sickness and diarrhoea (this can be the symptom of many things, so always best to get checked by the vet)
  • Sore mouth and gums
  • Weakness, noticeable lack of energy and sleeping more than usual
  • Lack of shine on fur/coat or changes in the quality of coat
  • Depression, lacklustre, not enjoying games/going out or whatever it is that your dog normally enjoys

Many of the above symptoms may be the result of other conditions, but whatever the cause it's always advisable to consult your vet if any of these occur.

What causes kidney disease in dogs?

Again, just as with humans, the kidneys can be damaged in a number of ways including

  1. injury
  2. infection
  3. ingested toxins.
  4. old age
  5. bad food choices such as food high in phosphorous
  6. genetics - some breeds can be prone to poor kidneys such as (but not limited to) Cocker Spaniels, Bull Terriers, German Shepherds.

What can my dog eat if they have been diagnosed?

Your vet will no doubt suggest a renal diet.

Your vet may suggest a brand of food and there are many good quality brands that provide a specialist renal food.

The right food is step one and the most important step as it could significantly improve your dog's wellbeing and life expectancy. 

Good food

In broad terms, think of a renal diet as consisting of the following: 

  • Water Staying hydrated is very important for kidney function
  • Low protein Protein creates waste products that normally functioning kidneys will process. If the kidneys are damaged they will have to work harder/or won't work in removing the waste product. A low protein diet will take the pressure off the kidneys.
  • Low phosphorus  A fundamental process of kidneys is filtering phosphorus in urine. If the kidneys aren't functioning to their best your dog may develop a build-up of phosphorus.
  • Low salt. Salt will worsen symptoms.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids. Good for all dogs in any case, but the AHAs and DHAs found in fish oil help reduce inflammation and help kidneys to function
  • Flavour. A reduced appetite may mean you need to work harder to find GOOD food/treats that your dog will enjoy eating. Have a look below at the 'good' options for your dog's diet and find out which one they find irresistible.

What is the best food?

I'd say this for any dog really, but, it's best to purchase the best quality option that you can afford.

Cheap 'commercial' dog food often contains nasties like preservatives, artificial flavours and 'cheap filler'. 

As the old saying goes 'you get what you pay for'.

This doesn't mean you have to get the most expensive option! There are lots of good quality brands on the market now. So if you find a 'renal' dog food from the mid-range price, you will still be doing a good thing by your dog.

Your vet will no-doubt suggest a brand, but feel free to do your own research and pick a brand of your choosing. Vets will often be affiliated to a brand, but that doesn't mean a different choice won't be just as suitable.

A quick Google of 'renal dog food' will give you a good idea of the brands available.

If I have two dogs, can they share the renal food even if my second dog doesn't have kidney issues? 

In short, no.

A healthy dog needs a different balanced food to support good health.

Do not feed a healthy dog with renal dog food.

Food/treats to avoid if your dog has kidney failure.

  1. High protein, high salt, high phosphorus levels for example
  2. Red meat
  3. Jerky (dried red meat skin)
  4. Bones
  5. Pig's ears
  6. Rawhide or any hide
  7. Human food (I'd say this for all dogs, but I know lots of you like to give little treaties to your dogs). Human food is full of salt, sugar, additives, preservatives, flavourings, colourings, spices and other non-doggy friendly stuff! If your dog is healthy, a little bite here and there is okay, but if they are sick then NO human food is the best way forward.  

Is tuna good for dogs with kidney disease?

Tuna contains high levels of phosphorus, which is damaging for a dog that needs to be on a renal diet. NO tuna for your dog if they have kidney issues.

There are many great fish treats for dogs, let's give tuna a miss.

What vegetables are good for dogs with kidney disease?

Wonderous vegetables are so great for your dog’s kidney health! Lots of veg contain nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are kind to kidneys. 

These include: 

Carrots, which help promote good digestion; 

Cucumbers for high moisture, high fibre and low salt content

Peas as a tasty and digestible source of protein

Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes for being starchy carbohydrates and a great source of B vitamins. 

Vegetables you should avoid: 

NO TO Tomatoes, as dogs with kidney issues need to avoid high levels of potassium, and tomatoes contain lots. Tomatoes also contain oxalates, which can contribute to the formation of kidney stones. 

Which fruits are good for dogs with kidney disease?

Eating healthy fresh fruits is a great way for a dog to nourish their kidneys, in moderation as part of a specialist renal diet. 


  • Blueberries and strawberries are perfect options, as they both contain antioxidants to battle toxins that may further damage the kidneys, and fibre to aid gentle digestion.
  • Watermelon (remove seeds) can also be a juicy treat for a dog with kidney disease, as it’s deliciously hydrating but low in phosphorus.
  • Apples (remove seeds) cut up into munchable pieces are fine in moderation. Apple is rich in pectin to absorb damaging toxins. 
  • Bananas are fine in small amounts as they’re relatively low in phosphorus, protein and potassium - however, whether it’s low enough depends on what else your dog is eating. Some dogs also have difficulties digesting bananas, so make a decision based on what you know about your dog, and always ask your vet. 

As always, you know your dog better than anyone else and you will hopefully see improvements in your dog's vim and vigour if you get their diet and treats right.

It's imperative that you keep up your vet visits and follow their advice.

Does your dog have kidney disease or have you had a dog in the past with the condition? We'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences, so that other's can share from your knowledge.

Please comment in notes with any of your thoughts and stories.

Click Here for treats that are okay for dog's with kidney issues.


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