The Best Diet Advice for Kidney Failure in Dogs…

If you have read the first two parts to our trio of articles on kidney failure in dogs you will now know that processed dry food has caused this problem and that low protein dog food is almost certainly not going to fix the issue. If you are unclear on any of these points please check out the links below. If it’s understood then read on for the solution!

My name’s Dr Conor Brady, a canine nutrition specialist. Below I tell you all you need to know to get your dog with kidney failure back in top form. How do I benefit? Articles like this get folk on to my site. If you need specialised help you can book me for a consultation. I link to one or two natural supplements that you will need near the end, I track that sale and get a tiny percentage. Feel free to find them local first though!

First Remove the Most Common Causes of Kidney Failure in Dogs

Their kidneys are failing so we need to reduce the workload on them. First up is anything that causes an immune reaction as the debris from these reactions clog the kidney highways. This is the most over-looked step in dogs with kidney failure (after foul teeth). Thus you need to remove:

  • Wheat gluten (dry foods, store bought dog treats, bread, pasta, dental bone type gunk)
  • Dairy
  • Cooked meat
  • Pet store treats including dental sticks, raw hide chews etc.
  • Needless chemicals including chemical flea and worm treatments, kennel cough treatments, annual boosters for dogs already adequately vaccinated for viruses, etc

dogs want raw dog food

Is Low Phosphorus important for a dog with kidney Failure?

As in humans, one of the first things considered with kidney patients is an appropriate, fresh diet. When formulating a fresh diet for dogs with kidney failure the very first thing you might hear is to watch the phosphorus contents of the ingredients you use. However, this is not necessarily the case. We have already shown in Part 2 of this series that it is the inorganic form of phosphorus that causes the kidney issues in cats, not the natural form. There is no reason this wouldn’t extend to dogs too. This is a common problem for synthetic nutrients made in a lab.

Minerals are INorganic, meaning they are not from the land of the living. As such, the gut membrane barrier does not trust them and is less keen to allow them pass. It prefers when mineral are bond to a carbon molecule (chelated). The result is the non-chelated, supplement form is poorly utilised by the body.

While they can make chelated minerals in the lab, they are very expensive so general they are less popular, and never used in pet food. The minerals used in pet food are the cheaper form such as oxides such as iron oxide, a.k.a. rust, and zinc oxide, a which is notoriously poorly absorbed by dogs, hence, coupled with the low protein food, they have bad coats. As there is no maximums on these minerals in pet food world they are free to use LOTS of the oxide to make sure your dog might get what he needs. See, making pet food is easy!

Napoli et al. (2007) divided 183 women into three groups – one group (the ‘diet’ group) consumed at least 70% of their daily calcium from real food, another (the ‘supplement’ group) consumed at least 70% of their calcium from tablets or pills and a third whose calcium-source percentages fell somewhere in between these ranges. They found that the ‘diet’ group took in the least calcium, an average of 830 milligrams per day and yet this group had higher bone density in their spines and hipbones than women in the ‘supplement’ group, who consumed about 1,030 milligrams per day. 

We know this is the case in dogs too. They can eat aw meaty bones until the cows come home (missing a leg or two) and they don’t blow out their calcium requirements, turning into rigid statues. Allow your pup to munch on calcium supplements and you might have a different result. 

Thus, I no longer push the low phosphorus concept. However, I do not have a supportive study to convince you further here. If you are formulating your own raw dog food diet for kidney failure and are concerned for phosphorus then please check out this table I made showing the phosphorus contents of the most popular raw dog food ingredients. I’ve coloured them green (low), orange (medium, not too much of these) and red (avoid if possible).

With that in mind, here’s how to prepare a fresh, easy to digest, low phosphorus meal for kidney failure in dogs.

Paleo Ridge Raw Dog Food

The importance of organic meat for a dog with kidney Failure

In my opinion, most dogs presenting with anything but end-game kidney failure can and should be fed a relatively normal raw dog food diet. Really the most important thing to consider is that it needs to be as organic as possible.

The problem is cheap meats can contain phosphates. Cheap breast meat is injected phosphates to make them suck up water, making the crappy food company more cash per kilo (it’s why many cuts of processed pork spit on the pan). So many raw dog foods are made on the cheapest chicken available. This is somewhat inevitable as producers are rarely rewarded for using higher quality meat in their mixes (you can’t tell and your dog doesn’t care).

There is another reason I don’t recommend non-organic chicken or turkey in dogs with kidney failure and that is the presence of OTC (oxytetracycline), an antibiotic derivative, that accumulates in their bones. In their review of the subject, Di Cerbo et al. (2017) suggest is the bio-accumulation and then consumption of OTC that may be an underlying cause for many of the inflammatory pathologies that plague dogs today. Poultry bone meal is usually the “meat” in dry pet food (though they tend to leave out the bone word on their label, funny that!) but raw dog foods use huge amounts of cheap carcass too.

So buy organic raw dog food where you can but don’t lose too much sleep over it, it’s just to keep it in mind. Paleo Ridge makes great raw dog food in the UK and does a good variety of ethical, organic meats too. They’re really they only pre-made raw dog food I recommend and they have a “special diet” in their Paleo Plus range that is very kidney but they are costlier. 

If you have a big dog you can formulate your own raw dog food using our article on DIY raw dog food, finding organic meat when and where you can.

Authors note: I still seem to favour red meats over white in dogs with kidney failure! It’s a complete hangover from the phosphorus thing that I spent the first half of my career believing but it’s not going to do him any harm that either way

Excellent Additions for Dogs With Kidney Failure

Kidney: All raw diets for kidney disease need to contain kidney. Called organotherapy, like feeds like in dogs. 3-5% of the diet.

Fresh Eggs: Add eggs, they’re great, easy to digest protein, highly recommended. 

Vitamin A: Lubricates the kidneys and can be found in the local health shop. Recommended dose for dogs is 100–200 IU (international units)/kg body weight (BW) per day. This measurement will be displayed on the back of the bottle. Up to 90% of excess vitamin A is stored in the liver, so be aware of requirements and do not exceed the stated dose. Find plain Vitamin A powder on Amazon. Speak to your vet first before undertaking vitamin supplementation.

Vitamin C (acidic): As the blood becomes quite alkaline with kidney failure, it will help balance the blood’s pH levels. Vitamin C is also a natural diuretic, enhancing the flow of liquids through the kidneys. Great vitamin C additions include parsley, juniper berries and good old cranberries, get them in there). Include around 100-200 mg of Vitamin C per kg of BW per day. Find plain Vitamin C Powder on Amazon. Speak to your vet first before undertaking vitamin supplementation.

Herbs: There are lots of herbs that are certain to boost kidney function, many by acting as a diuretic (flushing the kidneys, equivalent to some of the meds offered by vets) but also containing a wide range of compounds unique to those plants, all backed up with copious amounts of studies. These include the mild and more easily sought, such as dandelion, parsley and couch grass, to the even more effective (though less common) such as rehamannia, bearberries. For more check out our article “Top 5 Herbs for Dogs With Kidney Disease“. Warning: some of these herbs are so powerful they may clash with conventional meds your vet may have already prescribed for your pet. Please take heed of the warnings mentioned in the article before embarking, if your dog is on kidney meds.

Water: Lots of filtered or distilled water. Check out this article to show you why tap water is absolutely not recommended in sick (or even healthy) dogs (or humans!). 

And don’t forget, you must Clean up any and all tartar on those teeth…

As we highlighted in Part 1, you need to get those teeth nice and clean. Studies show periodontal disease and kidney failure go hand in hand. The best way to keep your dogs teeth clean is to give them some texture in their food, which in dogs comes from fresh meaty bones


I have spent a lot of time building up my knowledge. From a doctorate in animal behaviour and nutrition to years in guide dogs and the last seven year inside and out of the pet food industry, I have always provided all my information free to the public, articles that I spend a lot of time putting together. While it’s clearly a passion of mine the fact remains, I can’t do this and a steady job at the same time. Without a salary or fancy sponsorship, I am left trying to monetise my site as much as I can without pushing on you horrible adverts for car loans and crap pet products. I’ve recently put a donation button at the bottom of my longer articles. So, if this helped you in any way, maybe where your vet couldn’t and you feel you’d like to give me the price of a coffee, please free to do exactly that. If you’re strapped and can’t afford it, I can totally sympathise. We’re glad to have you on board spreading the word regardless.

Many thanks and continued good health to you and your pets.

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