Commercial Diets for Dogs with Kidney Disease: Review

Feeding your dog with kidney disease:

Feeding a dog with kidney disease can be a challenging endeavor and requires much trial and error when discovering what your dog is willing to eat. Below are some of the commercial foods I tried while caring for my elderly dog who had kidney disease. I kept track of which ones she liked and which ones she vehemently refused to eat. Hopefully, the information below may help you find a product that your friend will enjoy!

Commercial diets for CKD:

There are several commercial kidney diets available for dogs on the market. These diets are available only with prescription from your pet’s veterinarian. If your dog is diagnosed with renal failure, it is important that her diet be changed to slow the progression of disease. Most of the time, this is done by using one of the prescription diets produced by Hill’s, Royal Canin, or Purina. Many believe that the companies listed here use inferior ingredients in their products, and they would rather not feed these foods to their pet. While the ingredients may not always be the best in these products, it is important to feed a reduced phosphorus diet to dogs with kidney disease, so if the owner cannot prepare low phosphorus foods at home for their pet, they should feed the prescription diets instead of feeding a regular commercial diet or an unbalanced homemade diet.

Below are reviews on some of the renal formulas from Hill’s and Royal Canin.

Palatability:

One of the major issues many people have with the commercial kidney diets available is their palatability. Oftentimes kidney disease diminishes a dog’s desire to eat. The best food in the world is worthless if your dog won’t eat it. It is important that your dog continues to eat, as going without food is hard on the kidneys. If your dog refuses to eat the prescription food, ask your veterinarian for suggestions on improving their appetite.

To get your dog to eat, you may have to be a little creative. While for healthy dogs I generally use a tough love approach, it really is important to keep a sick dog eating. I will handfeed Lady when she is being particularly picky. Sometimes I will mix a very small amount of something she really likes with her prescription food, just to give it an odor she likes. When I say a small amount, I mean small spoonful, or less. You just want enough to encourage the dog to eat. Some of Lady’s favorites are chicken gravy, beef gravy, Nutrisource dog treats crushed to a powder and sprinkled on top of her food, or a little Fancy Feast cat food. Once again, try to feed the food without these temptations, and always consult with your vet. If your dog has been eating pretty well for a while and suddenly starts refusing food, take her to the vet. Such changes could be indicative of the disease progressing, or of other problems/changes.

As far as the palatability of prescription diets, I must say from my limited experience of trying to feed my dog with kidney disease, they are not very palatable. Below are the products I have tried with Lady, and the verdicts on each of them.

Hill’s k/d stews:

The tastiest product that I have found (according to Lady, who is rather picky) is the stew varieties of the Hill’s k/d line of products. The ingredient list is also not terrible compared to some of the other cans available through other brands. Lady will eat both the chicken and beef variety by themselves or mixed with some of her dry prescription diet. Even though she eats these pretty well, if she gets commercial food of any sort for more than a few days, she will start refusing to eat.

One of the things that I think really helps with Lady’s willingness to eat this product is the fact that it is not sticky. For instance, the Royal Canin cans I tried with her did not work out, in large part I believe not because she did not like the flavor, but because the consistency was so sticky that is was difficult for her to eat.

Hill’s k/d kibble:

This is not Lady’s first choice for dinner. She will eat it with canned food, or by itself, but she does so begrudgingly. I always have a bag of this in addition to a case of the k/d cans on hand for when I run out of fresh food/ when I forget to thaw food for her. A trick that works to get her to eat it is this: I will hand a few kibbles to the other dogs in the house, who gobble it down enthusiastically, and then I offer her some. This normally works. Hand feeding also seems to make her more willing to eat this food. Any time she seems especially hungry in the afternoon after she has had her dinner, I give her as much of this hand fed as she will eat.

A note about this food: when Lady was initially diagnosed with renal failure, I fed her k/d kibble predominantly while I was trying to come up with fresh food to give her. The food gave her a very bloated appearance. I am not sure if this was because of the food, or if it was because Lady was not used to eating lots of kibble prior to her diagnosis.

Royal Canin Renal Support A Kibble:

I currently have a full bag of this product in my cabinet because Lady will not eat this food. Nothing I did would get her to try this, even when her appetite improved for food in general. My other dogs did eat this kibble without problem (I let them have a few bites hoping that would cause Lady to try some.)

Royal Canin Renal Support A and E Canned:

Lady ate both of these. She seemed to like the taste, but it was so sticky it was difficult for her to eat it. The scent definitely enticed her, so if your dog is reluctant to eat, you might want to give these cans a try. I did not buy them long term because Lady’s appetite picked up for her regular food once we made some changes in her supplements.

Conclusion:

I hope this helps anyone who is trying to figure out what to feed their pet with kidney disease. It takes time and lots of experimentation, but it is usually possible to find a commercial kidney diet that your dog will eat. If no commercial diet works for you pet, you might want to try cooking for your dog with kidney disease. Consult with you veterinarian before doing so, so they can provide guidance. The sample diets that I used may also be beneficial (Sample Diets for Dogs with Kidney Disease).

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