Q: My dog was just diagnosed with kidney disease and my vet recommended a special “kidney diet” but he wont eat it – what suggestions do you have?
A: Dogs and cats with kidney disease do require special diets that are easier on the kidneys and help slow the progression of the disease. These diets are low in protein and phosphorus but your dog must consume enough of the food to fulfill all of his nutritional requirements and maintain an appropriate body weight. The first step is to talk to your veterinarian about different brands of diets specially formulated to help dogs with kidney disease. There are many different options available and another brand or another formulation (canned vs. dry) may be more palatable to your dog. The important thing to remember is to make sure your dog is feeling well and is not nauseous before starting to introduce the new food. Introducing a new diet when a pet is feeling poorly may cause a food aversion. Also, be patient when introducing a new diet but ensure your pet is eating an adequate amount of food. If in doubt, ask your vet how much he should be eating each day. Try slowly mixing a new food into his diet over the course of several weeks or place a small amount of the new food in his regular food bowl and a little less of his current diet in a nearby bowl. Slowly increase the amount of the new diet and less of his regular food every couple of days over the next several weeks and see how he tolerates it. You may try warming or chilling a canned food to see if he prefers a certain temperature. Ask your veterinarian if you can flavor the food with a small amount of low sodium broth or honey. If these options do not work and your dog still won’t eat a formulated “kidney” or “renal” diet, consider a consultation with a veterinary nutritionist. There are a lot of options available including some home cooked diets, but they require careful balancing of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.