What to feed a dog suffering from kidney failure?

Kidney disease is common in dogs and cats. They may be due to the quality of their diet or to other causes linked to the animal’s lifestyle. When kidney failure sets in for a dog, it’s important to pay close attention to each and every item of food the animal consumes. You can even put your dog on an age-appropriate diet to ensure rapid recovery. In this article, we’ll give you some advice on feeding a dog suffering from kidney failure. 

In a broader way, don’t miss our guide about feeding your dog correctly here.

What is renal failure in dogs? 

Renal failure in a dog occurs when the animal’s kidney functions fail. It’s a disease characterized by the kidneys’ inability to detoxify blood (kidney stones). In dogs, there are two main types of kidney failure. The first is acute renal failure, in which the body is no longer able to rid itself of the toxins it produces. The second is chronic renal failure, in which the main characteristic is partial destruction of the kidney. 

When a kidney problem occurs in a dog, it’s important to regulate its diet and consult a veterinarian for treatment options. 

Symptoms of kidney failure in dogs

Symptoms of kidney failure in dogs can vary according to whether the condition is acute or chronic. 

In the case of acute renal failure, signs such as vomiting, partial or total loss of appetite, diarrhea, pain on urination and bad breath in the dog indicate kidney failure. 

In the case of chronic renal failure, the most common symptoms are fatigue, polyuria, excessive water consumption, thinness, vomiting and mouth ulcers. 

What should I feed a dog suffering from kidney failure?

Whether it’s acute or chronic renal failure, it’s particularly important to pay attention to the level of phosphorus in the animal’s diet. Indeed, this disease has the particularity of favoring the retention of phosphorus by the kidneys, as well as magnesium, potassium and even sodium. At the same time, kidney failure reduces calcium and trace element retention. As a result, the dog’s mineral and blood levels (creatinine) undergo a total upheaval, since its diet is mainly made up of water, animal proteins, sodium, calcium and phosphorus. For this reason, when he’s suffering from kidney failure, his diet must be easily digestible. Your vet will certainly be able to give you advice on treatment.

Household food for dogs with renal failure 

A home-made diet is an option that should only be used when prescribed by a veterinarian in the treatment of kidney disease. The foods used in this diet must be carefully selected, taking into account the dog’s age, weight and level of physical activity. There are a number of products on the market indicated for this condition in dogs. Kibbles for dogs with renal failure are one such product, and veterinarians generally recommend combining them with wet food. 

Wet food 

For both dogs and cats, moist foods and homemade foods (containing water and oil) are highly beneficial in the event of kidney problems. This is partly due to the fact that they contain large quantities of water, which is beneficial for these animals. Wet food is therefore an integral part of the treatment of renal failure in dogs.  

Healthy, natural meals are more suitable than kibble for treating dogs suffering from kidney failure. These meals provide the dog with quality protein and boost its immune system. These meals also help to heal skin lesions and keep the dog hydrated for optimal renal activity. 


For a dog suffering from kidney failure to remain in good health, it’s important to provide a diet that amply covers its protein requirements, and at the same time limits the accumulation of nitrogenous waste. However, it may be necessary to limit the amount of protein consumed by the animal. This depends on the stage of the disease, as determined by the veterinarian. 

Little magnesium 

The food you feed your dog suffering from kidney failure should contain as little magnesium as possible. In fact, it’s advisable to limit the amount of magnesium and crude ash in your dog’s diet. These substances are crystal-drying factors and are not conducive to rapid recovery of the dog’s health. 

A balanced diet of minerals and vitamins 

Dogs suffering from kidney failure are often prone to hyperphosphatemia. To counteract this, the dog’s diet must contain average levels of minerals and vitamins. These levels may vary according to the stage of your dog’s illness. You should seek veterinary advice. 

Little or no salt 

Generally speaking, it’s not wise to feed a dog or cat food that contains a lot of salt. This rule is even more valid in the case of animals with kidney problems. Salt is a condiment that should be totally restricted once the disease has set in. Otherwise, it can cause damage, including water retention and vomiting in dogs. 

Meat and fish 

Even if the protein content of a dog’s diet has to be reduced when he’s suffering from kidney failure, it’s still possible to feed him meats and fish. You can feed your dog pork, lamb or beef. You can also opt for salmon, sardines or mackerel. Whatever meat or fish you choose, it’s important not to overdo it, and to follow your vet’s instructions. 

Fruits and vegetables 

Many fruits and vegetables can be subtly incorporated into the diet of a dog suffering from kidney failure. They contain healthy water, minerals, fiber and vitamins that can help improve the dog’s health. These include cucumbers, broccoli, peppers, cabbage, peas and beans. 

Homemade recipes are also available for dogs with kidney problems. An example is a meat recipe that calls for white rice, broccoli, calcium carbonate, olive oil and carrots. Together, these ingredients produce a result that is good for the dog’s health.

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