Kidney disease and raw food diets

Dogs with Chronic Kidney Disease are often put on dry or canned food prescription diets by their Vets, but there is an alternative approach that can be taken for owners that want to provide their dog with the best nutrition available by choosing a complete and balanced raw food diet.

We talk to Clinical Naturopath and herbalist, and pet food nutritionist, Narelle Cooke, about her approach to kidney disease and how to ensure you are choosing the right product that will work alongside your Vet’s treatment plan.

You take a different approach to most Vet’s when it comes to management of kidney disease, why is that?

I certainly do, because I believe nutrition is no doubt the most important aspect of Chronic Kidney Disease management in our dogs.

And often, one of the main concerns that vets have with a raw food diet for a condition such as kidney disease, is that it’s high in protein and can also be high in another nutrient, called phosphorus. But it’s not black and white.

For example, feeding a protein source that has a low biological value, such as what comes from plant sources of protein like corn and soy, is what you tend to find in many commercial kibbles.  This actually creates more work for the kidneys than a protein with a high biological value, such as what comes from raw meat, so I believe that needs to be considered much more than it currently is.

Ensuring safe, but adequate levels of protein in the diet is also really important to ensure a good movement of fluids through the kidneys, to maintain muscle mass and to support immune function, especially in senior dogs, so again this is where a species specific and appropriate raw food diet can help.

In Series 6, we meet Diesel who has Chronic Kidney Disease and learn about how you helped him. Tell us more?

Diesel is a 15-year-old Labrador cross and his owner Michelle is a canine behaviour specialist who has a deep understanding of the importance of nutrition – particularly the enormous benefits of raw food feeding, for both health and behaviour in our dogs.

Diesel has been through so many challenges in his life – one of which, unfortunately, is the recent diagnosis of Chronic Kidney Disease – which is why Michelle contacted me, to support Diesel from a nutritional perspective that aligned with her beliefs knowledge around food, while still working closely with her Vet for the other aspects of Diesel’s care.

What did you have to consider in this circumstance to make sure it was okay?

Firstly, there are good guidelines outlining the safe amounts of protein and phosphorus for dogs in different stages of kidney disease, so I’m always looking to work within those guidelines with my doggy clients.

Next, because diseased kidneys aren’t as efficient at excreting waste products from the body, ensuring adequate water intake is really important. And this is where raw food can make a big difference, because it contains on average around 75% moisture, whereas a standard commercial kibble contains only about 10% moisture, which can be very dehydrating and put a further strain on the kidneys.

Then I’m looking for a high quality, highly bioavailable protein source that’s also low in phosphorus.

So what I recommended for Diesel was that he transition onto the Big Dog Goat raw patties, which have a very low phosphorus content, and which made them perfect for his stage of kidney disease, based on his blood tests results.

But, just as we would get bored of eating the exact same food twice a day every day, I think Diesel got a bit tired of a pure goat diet.

But the great thing is, that this wasn’t a problem, because the Big Dog range had multiple other varieties that were also suitable to recommend for Diesel, such as the Turkey which Diesel really likes, and particularly the Wellbeing formula.

In addition to being low in phosphorus, the Wellbeing formula also contains some key herbs that support kidney function, including nettle, which acts as a natural diuretic that allows proper fluid flow through the kidneys – which is exactly what dogs with chronic kidney disease need.

And how is Diesel going now?

The great news is, that we just got his most recent blood test results which overall were positive, as there has been no worsening of his Kidney Disease status. Plus most of the key markers for kidney function had actually improved and some liver enzymes had also improved, which is a great result.

Myself, his owner Michelle and her Vet were all very happy with the outcome and Diesel gets to enjoy all of the other benefits that being on a Big Dog Raw Food diet can provide, so it’s a win-win.


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