Managing chronic kidney disease: Nutrition is key

Managing chronic kidney disease: Nutrition is key

Although there is no definitive way to prevent this disease, you may be able to slow its progression—and reduce clinical signs—in your patients by helping owners feed their pets the right food.
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Mar 01, 2011


By the time pets with CKD exhibit increased thirst and other signs of disease, their kidneys are already only functioning at 15 to 30 percent of capacity. (Comstock Images/Getty Images)
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the most common renal disease affecting dogs and cats, especially older animals. Its causes are varied and include trauma, toxins, genetic anomalies, hypertension, ischemia, infections, immunologic diseases, neoplasia, and idiopathic interstitial nephritis. Since there is no single cause of CKD and the cause is often unknown, there is no definitive protocol for preventing it at this time.

To manage patients with renal failure, proper nutrition is critical. Animals with CKD often become inappetent and are unable or unwilling to consume a sufficient amount of calories. A deficiency in calories and essential amino acids increases catabolism of muscle and other body proteins (e.g. albumin, immunoglobulins). Starvation is a serious concern when treating patients with this disease.

Dietary management may slow the progression of CKD, although there is some controversy as to when dietary intervention should be initiated and what diet to give. But once a patient is showing signs of uremia, it is a generally accepted practice to decrease the patient's phosphorus and protein intake to alleviate clinical signs. Following is a closer look at the effects of CKD and how proper nutrition can help.

Role of the kidneys

Kidneys remove wastes from blood that are produced from the breakdown of food, old cells, toxins or poisons, and many drugs given to treat other diseases. The wastes are removed with water as urine. The waste products measured in the blood include creatinine and urea nitrogen, but many other waste products are not measured by blood tests. The kidneys also regulate the amount of water in the blood by excreting extra water and retaining water to prevent dehydration by varying the amount of urine that is produced. In addition, the kidneys help regulate blood pressure by saving or eliminating sodium.