The Old Pet: Finding the right diet for a pet with kidney disease

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Q. I would like advice about caring for a dog with kidney disease. I need help with alternatives to prescription food. — Anne, San Jose

A. The kidneys function primarily as a filter for the body. The vast majority of kidney problems in pets are related to chronic renal failure, referred to as CRF.

While CRF occurs in dogs, it is much more frequently encountered in cats. The first sign of CRF in pets is usually an increase in water consumption or urinary output. As the kidneys fail, they lose their ability to conserve body water by concentrating the urine, so they produce large volumes of dilute urine instead. To compensate for the fluid loss, these pets will drink more water.

In addition to excessive water drinking and urination, pets with chronic kidney disease often experience weight loss, decreased appetite and dehydration. As the condition progresses and dehydration becomes more severe, pets will often stop drinking water because they feel sick, worsening their condition.

There are many Western and holistic methods to treat pets with kidney disease. When these treatments are used appropriately, they can add years to a pet’s life. The single most important means to keep pets with kidney disease healthy is with optimal nutrition.

Many veterinarians use “prescription” diets although I much prefer feeding a fresh, whole food diet designed for pets with kidney issues. The basic philosophy of a kidney diet is highly digestible food with limited levels of protein, phosphorus and sodium. The goal is to provide optimal nutrition with the least impact on kidney function.

The most significant advantage a fresh, whole-food renal diet has over its commercially prepared counterparts is palatability. Canned and dry prescription diets often do not taste great and as a result, pets don’t eat them well. A decrease in food intake will ultimately lead to dehydration, weight loss and worsening of kidney function.

On the contrary, fresh foods with high quality protein are yummy and are frequently much better received by our furry friends.

Dehydration is the enemy for pets with kidney disease. Because fresh, whole foods contain about 70 percent water, the more we can get them to eat, the better hydrated they will be.

Many pet owners will add additional water or low sodium broth to the diets to further increase water intake. I usually recommend people add as much water or broth as they can, provided their pet still eats the food well. Remember,

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle


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