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Kidney disease often leads to significant weight loss in dogs. What’s more, dog owners are sometimes compelled to switch to low-calorie diets as a means of managing this condition.
However, if your pup stays on this diet for too long or is unable to consume enough of it, they may experience muscle loss over time, making it a challenge to maintain a healthy weight.
This can potentially worsen the dog’s condition, as reduced muscle mass puts additional strain on the kidneys.
To help your dog with kidney disease maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to implement effective strategies for weight gain without exacerbating their symptoms. This includes avoiding foods high in protein, sodium, and phosphorous.
In this post, I’ll guide you through these strategies. Let’s get started…
- How to Put Weight on a Dog with Kidney Disease
How to Put Weight on a Dog with Kidney Disease
Much like humans, every dog has different caloric needs. While some may gain significant weight on a given diet, others may barely see an increase.
Therefore, I strongly advise you to make a trip to the vet if you notice sudden weight loss in a dog with kidney disease.
The vet will assess the dog’s condition, determine the extent of muscle mass loss (not just fat), and investigate if there are any other underlying conditions.
Once you receive the green light from your vet, you can begin experimenting with the tips I recommend here.
1. Increase the Amount of Fats and Fatty Acids
Since your dog has experienced weight loss and likely a significant decline in appetite, it’s important to consider ways to help him maintain a healthy weight by increasing his intake of high-calorie, nutrient-dense foods.
One of the most effective methods is gradually incorporating more fats into his diet.
Fats are low in phosphorous and outperform proteins and carbs when it comes to providing bulk in your dog’s food.
Since your sick dog can only consume a limited amount of food each day, opting for a calorie and fat-rich diet can assist in meeting his high-energy demands.
I recommend incorporating fatty meats like lamb or pork, whole milk products, a small amount of bacon for appetite stimulation and extra calories, and fish oil for its omega-3 fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory properties and combat free radicals, ultimately alleviating pressure on the dog’s kidneys.
Be sure to avoid foods that are overly oily or greasy, as they may lead to stomach upset and worsen your pup’s kidney disease symptoms.
2. Feed High-Quality Protein
To help your dog in maintaining a healthy weight, focus on providing high-quality protein.
This is crucial because your dog needs a sustainable source of energy, and nothing beats fats and proteins for this purpose.
However, not all proteins are created equal. Opt for high-quality proteins, which come from fresh, whole-food diets with easily digestible proteins.
Avoid low-quality proteins found in kibble and some commercial diets.
I highly recommend feeding your dog raw diets as they are easily digestible.
3. Provide More Frequent Meals
If your dog struggles to eat his meals in one or two sittings, splitting them into three or more portions throughout the day can really make a difference.
This way, he can receive all the intended nutrients gradually, which can aid in maintaining a healthy weight or even putting on a bit more.
4. Feed More Fresh Foods
Since your dog’s appetite may have waned, dry food might not be as appealing.
In this case, turning to fresh foods can be a great alternative, as they tend to have stronger scents compared to dry options.
5. Regular Exercise
Alongside dietary adjustments, it’s important to ensure your dog is getting an appropriate amount of exercise to keep his system functioning optimally.
Exercise not only aids in building muscle mass but also stimulates a healthy appetite.
I understand that your dog may be weak due to his condition, but consider light exercise routines like short, leisurely walks.
If walking is too strenuous, try techniques such as holding him in your arms while gently bouncing up and down or using a trampoline.
These gentle movements can help stimulate his circulatory system.
6. Incorporate Supplements
Balancing protein, fats, phosphorous, and sodium contents in all your dog’s meals can be a daunting task, especially if it’s your first time caring for a dog with kidney disease.
Fortunately, there are several supplements formulated to alleviate this burden and eliminate the guesswork.
The only drawback is that they may be pricier than other commercial foods.
7. Add an Appetite Stimulant to Your Dog’s Food
As kidney disease progresses, your dog may lose his appetite, which can further worsen his condition.
To stimulate his appetite, consider adding sweet items like honey or maple syrup to his food.
This will help increase his interest in meals, allowing him to enjoy his food and get the nutrients he needs to maintain a healthy weight.
Always ensure that any appetite stimulant you use is free from sodium, phosphorous, or excess proteins
8. Increase Water Intake
Hydration is very important to a dog with kidney disease because, without sufficient water in the body, efficient filtration of blood is impaired.
Accordingly, always ensure that your sick dog is hydrated all the time by availing clean, fresh water all the time.
I highly recommend giving your sick dog filtered water to limit the amount of toxin load that gets into the system. Remember that tap water in most regions is loaded with a lot of toxins.
You can also increase your pup’s water intake by feeding him more wet foods, which inherently have higher moisture content.
If you have to give him dry foods, consider soaking them in water or appropriate doggy soup before feeding.
9. Change Diet Gradually
Regardless of the food you choose to help your dog gain weight, make sure to introduce it slowly to allow your dog’s system to adjust.
This will also give you an opportunity to observe for any abnormal reactions and address any potential issues early on.
10. Manage Stress
If your dog is frequently stressed, he’s less likely to maintain a healthy weight.
In addition to making dietary changes, create a calm and secure environment where he feels safe.
Spend plenty of time with him to strengthen the bond between you both. This will enhance his overall sense of well-being
Dr. Rochelle Batanan (DVM) is a veterinarian based in Singapore with a wealth of experience in veterinary medicine. She obtained her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Southern Mindano and has since worked in several veterinary clinics and hospitals across Singapore and Philippines. Dr. Batanan has a special interest in small animal surgery and is skilled in a range of veterinary procedures including routine check-ups, vaccinations, and surgical operations. She is a dedicated professional who is committed to providing compassionate care to her patients and their families.