Katie McCaul BSc DipNat VN ANutR, VetChef Accredited Nutritionist

This post is sponsored by VetChef

The kidneys play a critical role within the body, their jobs include balancing substances such as salt and water, and as a filter for the blood by removing waste products and reabsorbing any nutrients or hormones the body needs. The kidneys are also involved in red blood cell production and maintaining blood pressure. Your dog has two kidneys each containing millions of functioning units called nephrons. It is here that the blood is filtered, and urine is produced.

In kidney disease, diet changes can significantly support your dog – but can you home cook such a specific diet?

The Diseased Kidney 

Chronic kidney disease is usually seen in senior patients as part of the ageing process but there can be other underlying causes such as poisons or genetics if seen in younger dogs.  


Checking your dog’s kidney function can be done with a simple blood test. We look for elevated levels of protein breakdown products called urea and creatinine. Urine analysis is also useful to assess the ability of the kidney to concentrate the urine and ability to prevent protein loss.

Staging kidney disease 

There is a useful tool put together by IRIS (International Renal Interest Society) to help veterinary practitioners better diagnose and treat kidney disease. Stages range from 1 (mild) to 4 (severe). A vet may stage the disease, this is useful for us to help decide how to feed the patient to best support its kidney function. 

General Dietary recommendations 


Patients with kidney disease are more likely to become dehydrated due to the reduced ability of the kidneys to conserve water. Maintaining a good fluid intake may help slow the progression of kidney disease. Wet food such as homemade diets are therefore recommended, the pet can also be encouraged to drink extra water by adding water to their food, and a little goats milk to a bowl of water. Using filtered or rainwater may encourage drinking. 


Patients with chronic kidney disease should have a moderate quantity, high-quality protein. Home-cooked diets based on meat contain good quality protein. In the later stages of the disease, we may need to add some unprocessed carbohydrate sources to moderate the protein levels further. 


This is another nutrient that relies solely on extraction by the kidneys for balance, so a lower phosphate diet is also recommended for these pets. Using calcium carbonate or eggshell powder as a calcium source will bind to the phosphorus in the digestive system and lower the amount of phosphorus absorbed into the bloodstream. 

Omega-3 fatty acids 

These ingredients should be increased to reduce inflammation in the kidney. This can be achieved by adding an oil daily to the diet.

Superfoods and vegetables 

THese can help boost antioxidants and water-soluble vitamins. They also help feed the microbiome which in turn reduces the workload on the kidney by reducing the breakdown products of protein from being absorbed by the kidney. The urea and other waste simply passes through faeces instead. 

A home-cooked diet with these specific modifications can support chronic kidney disease and help reduce the symptoms of this disease, improving quality of life. VetChef has designed a specific recipe and supplement to support all of these aspects of kidney disease. 


Ackerman N (2012) The consulting Nurse Wiley and Blackwell

Laflamme DP (2008) Pet food safety: dietary protein, Top Companion Anim Med. 2008 Aug;23(3):154-7. doi: 10.1053/j.tcam.2008.04.009.

Middle C (2016) Natural Prescription diets for Dogs and Cats

Richard W. Nelson and C. Guillermo Couto (2014) Small Animal Internal Medicine.

Parker VJ, Freeman LM (2012) Focus on nutrition: Nutritional management of protein-losing nephropathy in dogs. Compend Contin Educ Vet. 2012 Jul;34(7):E6.

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