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A myth about low protein diets and kidney disease in dogs

Why low-protein diets for kidney disease are useless

It can take years of working as a veterinarian to gain enough courage and confidence to sometimes go against the status quo.

During my 27 years in practice, I have observed and treated many aging dogs that had been diagnosed with or were on the verge of kidney disease. The conventional recommendation is to put such dogs on a special low-protein diet.

When I was a young vet, I also followed this standard practice. I rarely saw dogs with kidney disease live longer than a few years. They would waste away and become thin and weak.

I was taught that this was a typical progression of kidney disease and that a low-protein diet was necessary to reduce levels of blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine, the byproducts of protein metabolism.

The more protein consumed, the higher the levels of BUN and creatinine in the blood, the main indicators of kidney disease in dogs.

In the mid-1990s, I noticed some of my clients feeding raw and cooked natural foods to their dogs. To me, this diet made much more sense than a bag of kibble made from questionable ingredients that often sat on the warehouse shelf for months or perhaps years before being eaten.

A few around this time research studies were released showing that low protein diets were contraindicated for cats with kidney disease. This is one of the most common conditions treated in feline medicine.

To me it made perfect sense, because depriving cats, who are true carnivores, of protein and feeding them a grain-based diet was nothing more than feeding them donkey meat!

My own cat, Mina, was diagnosed with kidney disease at age 15 and continued to do incredibly well on a raw, high-quality protein diet for six years. She was 21 years old when we finally had to say goodbye. She never got to the point where she was getting skinny and wasting muscle.

Thanks to Mina and other cats, I dared to introduce a raw and cooked meat diet with bones and vegetables to dogs, against the recommendation of diet companies that continue to propose low-protein kibble.

More than 15 years later, I have seen and treated many patients kidney disease. I can now say with confidence that dogs on a high protein raw or cooked diet do much better than dogs on low protein kibble.

If you think about it, one of the most important parts of… treating and preventing kidney disease provides good hydration. Kibble is dehydrated and therefore much harder on the kidneys.

In the hierarchy of importance, providing the body with the essential building blocks to function, such as protein, is much more important than lowering protein levels.

Starving a dog of protein leads to general weakness and faster disease progression.

In fact, dogs with early to moderate kidney disease appear to stabilize when fed and provided with a raw diet healthy, all-natural supplements.

Weakened kidneys lose vitamins and minerals more quickly, and supplementing with all-natural minerals and food-based vitamins seems to make a marked difference.

I also suggest that you give your dog non-dairy hypoallergenic probiotics.

The only merit of lowering protein levels in kidney disease is when it is in the very late stages, when a patient is only a few weeks away from the end of life.

Furthermore, I recommend that you stay away from low-protein diets. Your dog has a much greater chance of a happy and full life.

For more information about treating kidney disease, click here.

© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM

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