Ask the Vegan Vet: Kidney Disease

"One of my senior dogs has been diagnosed with kidney disease and the vet wants me to put her on Royal Canin kidney support which I've heard bad things about. She also has high blood pressure. Will v-dog help her?" -- Sharon H.

Dear Sharon,

We lack studies at this time about dogs with kidney (renal) disease on vegan diets.  However, here is what I can say.  Renal diets are considered for dogs with IRIS Stage 2/4 kidney disease and recommended when they have Stage 3 or 4 kidney disease.  You can ask your vet what stage the kidney disease is at.  Here's what a therapeutic kidney diet most importantly needs to do:

1) Restrict dietary protein

2) Restrict dietary phosphate (and or use a phosphate binder)

Plant-based foods are naturally lower in protein than meat-based food.  Phosphate levels vary.  If your dog has a high plasma phosphate, your vet may prescribe a phosphate binder.

High blood pressure can result from decreased kidney function and has less to do with diet in dogs than in humans.  There is no evidence that restricting dietary sodium intake will reduce blood pressure in dogs.  Therefore, high blood pressure requires drug treatment and regular monitoring.

In conclusion, there isn't enough information to say if a vegan diet will work as well as the prescription meat-based renal diets in preventing progression of disease.  My impression is that a plant-based diet should not make the kidney disease worse.  Without studies, it will be hard to know.  Kidney disease is progressive regardless of diet.  We just hope to slow it down.  Would a plant-based diet be the best choice?  Maybe.  Hopefully this will be researched in the future.  Whatever diet you choose, regular vet check ups at least every 3 months (especially at first) are important to manage kidney disease and high blood pressure.  

Wishing you and your dog good health,

Lorelei Wakefield, VMD

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