Dog outside wearing bandana

What is kidney disease in dogs?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is defined as any abnormality of one or both kidneys that has been present for several months. CKD affects about 1 in every 10 dogs.1

Your dog’s kidneys are vital to removing waste substances from the bloodstream and maintaining the balance of fluid and minerals within the body. But if the kidneys can’t do their job, the result could be life-threatening for your dog.

Dog outside with owner playing

What contributes to kidney disease in dogs?

There are two main categories of kidney disease in dogs: acute and chronic. Signs of acute kidney disease usually manifest over a week or month’s time, while chronic kidney disease is defined as kidney damage that has been present for at least three months. Common causes of kidney disease & its progression include:

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The chance of developing kidney disease increases as dogs get older.1


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Some dog foods that are high in phosphorus, sodium, and protein can accelerate its progression.


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Some breeds are more likely to develop certain kidney conditions.

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Other illnesses and health issues can contribute to the worsening of CKD in dogs.


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Any conditions that lead to dehydration (eg, vomiting, diarrhoea, shock) can worsen kidney function and contribute to CKD progression.


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Early detection of kidney failure in your dog

Signs of serious illness only appear after 75% of kidney function is already lost1, so the sooner kidney disease is diagnosed, the more time there is to address the underlying cause or slow the disease’s progression. CKD is progressive and irreversible, but your veterinarian can help provide long-term care and show you how to track signs in older dogs.

What are the signs & symptoms of kidney disease in dogs?

The signs of early-stage kidney disease are not visible. On diagnosis, CKD has already been present for some time but its progression can be slowed down with the help of vet-approved dog food for kidney disease. Signs & symptoms of late-stage kidney disease tend to be similar but are far more noticeable to pet parents.

Signs of kidney disease

  • Increased thirst 
  • Frequent or no urination
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath or a sore mouth
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Constipation
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Nutrition for dogs with kidney disease

If your dog has kidney problems, the right nutrition may be able to make a positive impact on their quality of life and potentially even lengthen their lifespan. Specially formulated nutrition for dogs with kidney disease can be beneficial by having less protein and phosphorous than other pet foods. Phosphorus restriction can slow progression of kidney damage, while controlled, high-quality proteins can lessen the severity of the symptoms and help restore normal acid-base levels.

Nourish your pet's microbiome

New evidence supports a link between gut health and kidney health.2 Nutrition that is formulated with ingredients shown to nourish the gut microbiome can help reduce waste products that can be harmful to their kidneys.

What about nutritional yeast for dogs with kidney disease?

While it has gained some popularity online, yeast is relatively high in phosphorus, which could be a concern for dogs with CKD. Similarly, many websites now propose creating a raw diet for dogs with kidney disease but fail to mention the range of factors to consider, such as contamination risks, providing the right balance of nutrients, and the overall cost. When looking into nutritional options for dogs with kidney disease, it’s always best to get a specific recommendation from your veterinarian.

Hill’s Pet Care Center

Visit the Hill’s Pet Care Center for more info and articles about how you can help your dog stay healthy

1Brown SA. Renal dysfunction in small animals. The Merck Veterinary Manual website. 2013 []

2Hill’s Clinical Evidence Report Nourishing the gut microbiome helps support kidney health in cats and dogs with chronic kidney disease. 2023