# 1 When to Say No to Low-Protein
Only dogs whose kidney failure is advanced need very low-protein diets.
by CJ Puotinen
Every day, thousands of dogs are diagnosed with kidney disease. The first suggestion most conventional veterinarians make is to switch from whatever the dog has been eating to a low-protein “kidney diet” food. Clients are sent home with bags or cans of “prescription” food and warned not to feed high-protein foods or treats of any kind.
Most dogs, even chow hounds, approach their new, low-protein food with suspicion, since these diets are generally much less palatable than foods that contain more animal protein. Many refuse to eat. Conventional veterinarians are used to this response and tell their clients to stick to the new food for their dogs’ own good. “Your old food is too high in protein and will actually speed kidney failure,” they warn. “Keep giving him the prescription food. He’ll come around when he gets hungry enough.”
Eventually most CRF patients do accept their new food, though without much gusto or enthusiasm. Worse, despite their food’s low protein levels, the dogs’ slow deterioration continues.
Many look back, after their dogs have died, and wonder whether they did the right thing. Now a new approach to feeding dogs with kidney disease offers a different scenario – one that’s more likely to keep CRF dogs, and their human companions, happy.
A paradigm shift
It’s a fact of life that not all medical discoveries and “breakthroughs” in disease treatment prove to be as promising as they seemed at first. Adopted on the basis of a few small, encouraging studies, some strate-gies are found later to cause mixed or even adverse results.
This is definitely the case with the currently predominant treatment strategy of giving dogs with CRF a low-protein diet. Newer research has radically changed and fine-tuned the dietary recommendations for canine CRF patients. Those using the latest, recommendations to feed their CRF dogs a therapeutic home-prepared diet report excellent results. Best of all, most dogs love the combination of high-quality protein and freshly prepared ingredients.
Chronic renal failure affects male and female dogs of all breeds and all ages. Its underlying cause may be hereditary or related to inflammation, tick disease, progressive degeneration, damage following acute renal failure, or unknown causes. Acute renal failure may be triggered by a trauma injury, exposure to poisons like antifreeze or rat poison, or damage caused by medications, bacterial infections (such as leptospirosis), fungal infections, or dehydration.
Many animals born with poorly constructed or poorly functioning kidneys succumb to kidney failure at a young age. Most cases of chronic renal failure are seen in dogs age seven or older. Chronic nephritis, a common diagnosis in CRF patients, involves low-grade, long-term inflammation of kidney tissue that causes permanent damage to delicate renal tissue.
Conventional veterinary medicine considers all forms of kidney disease to be irreversible, progressive, and eventually fatal. But many holistic veterinarians disagree, saying that the progress of chronic renal failure can be interrupted or slowed with improved nutrition and holistic support.
“Since I turned to a natural approach to wellness,” says Florida veterinarian Russell Swift, DVM, “I have seen many dogs outlive their death sentence by years.”
Like many holistic vets, Dr. Swift blames a toxic lifestyle for causing many cases of CRF. “I believe the major reasons for kidney failure are poor-quality nutrition and exposure to toxins. Processed foods are a major contributor to kidney disease because they combine poor-quality ingredients with harmful additives or residues, and that leads to chronic illness. The inadequate and improper protein sources in processed foods and the low moisture content of dry foods are two major kidney stressors.
“When dogs are treated with prescription drugs for the problems that often accompany commercial diets, they are given nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), antibiotics, and other medications that are damaging to the kidneys. I also question the use of food additives and preservatives and the use of fluoride in drinking water, and don’t forget environmental toxins like lawn chemicals and other pesticides, including those that we use around ourselves and our companion animals. It’s a wonder more dogs don’t develop kidney problems.”