Kidney Disease is an all too common illness affecting dogs and cats. It seems to be reaching the status of routine diagnosis, or something pet owners believe naturally occurs to their aging animal. Unfortunately, renal failure is not a symptom of old age, but generally due to an over-processed diet. The kidneys are designed to filter waste from the bloodstream, after the body has taken the nutrients it needs from food. Contrary to popular belief, it is too much phosphorus in the kidneys that cause damage to them, not protein. It makes sense that they are the targets of being overworked when we consider the amount of inappropriate foods being pushed on pet owners.
High carbohydrate diets, or ones with low-quality proteins, are often found in most conventional kibbles. While there are a few lines of pet foods dedicated to boasting an appropriate amount of meat in their kibbles, there is still an overwhelming amount of those that do not. They have taken advantage of the changing market that targets people looking for, “Real Meat as the First Ingredient”. Subsequently, people then believe their animals are being fed appropriately so long as the diet has one meat source, completely ignoring the onslaught of either cheap cereal grains that come next, or in a grain free diet, peas and potatoes. Peas bump up the protein percentage in a food, and for carnivorous animals like dogs and cats, the plant matter protein is not as easily broken down. White potato provides little dietary benefit, is high on the glycemic index, and is used as a binder to keep kibble together. All of these factors can, over time, cause the kidneys to work harder than necessary, and produce a lot of waste within them.
So what can be done? The best method is to actively prevent kidney disease by feeding a cat or dog whole and raw foods, primarily from high quality meat sources. The less waste the kidneys have to filter, the more likely they are to stay healthy, continue to work properly, and allow the animal to live a long and healthy life. We have addressed that kibble is over-processed, but it is also extremely dry. Moisture for all animals is key in keeping them healthy. But moisture is especially important when it comes to renal health. Canned, freeze dried raw, dehydrated, or frozen raw diets are all much better options as they are much less processed then kibble, and provide adequate moisture.
If an animal develops kidney disease, finding an appropriate diet to suit their condition can be more of a struggle. Phosphorus levels vary greatly among protein sources, so it takes a little more digging to find out what proteins fall within the proper levels. Green tripe, ground lamb, dark meat chicken, and egg whites all have relatively low phosphorus levels. Adding dark, leafy greens like kale or spinach, will also help remove excess phosphorus from the animal’s body through the stool, instead of having it filter through the kidneys!
Renal failure is very serious, but can be prevented and managed with proper nutrition. Some common signs and symptoms that your pet may be suffering from renal failure can include: dehydration or a sudden increase in water consumption, anemia (pale gums and weakness), vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, depression, an increase in the need to urinate, loss of appetite, or sudden weight loss. If you suspect that your pet may have renal failure or is exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, it's important that your pet is seen by their veterinarian immediately. A routine blood screen can easily and effectively detect if your pet's kidneys are failing. Without proper treatment and preventative care, kidney disease can result in death.
Sources: DogsNaturallyMagazine.com: "Natural Options for Kidney Disease & Failure", National Center for Biotechnology Information: "The Phosphorus Pyramid" and "Demineralization of a Wide Variety of Foods for the Renal Patient", DogAware.com: "Kidney Disease: Nutritional Information on Selected Foods"