How do I know if my dog has kidney failure?

(Q) My Golden Retriever, Sky, has been diagnosed with chronic kidney failure. He had vestibular syndrome at the beginning of the year, and the vet said that the medication Sky received for this might have contributed to his kidney problems. He added that Sky needed a low-protein diet, but I would like more detailed information about the disease if possible.

(A) Vet Roberta Baxter says: One of the consequences of chronic renal failure is that the kidneys leak protein into the urine, and the urine often becomes more dilute, leaching proteins from the body and resulting in muscle wastage, weakness, anaemia, and electrolyte disturbances. 

A high-protein diet is associated with more ongoing kidney disease and damage, while a low-protein diet that contains easily assimilated proteins has less of an ongoing harmful effect on the kidneys. In general, dogs with chronic kidney disease do best on a relatively low-protein diet - with good-quality, easily digestible protein ingredients - which is also low in salt and phosphorus to help prevent blood pressure disturbances. 

Added B vitamins, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants also aid maintenance of kidney function. These can be provided using a veterinary prescribed diet, which is available in both dry and wet formulations. 

Recipes also exist for appropriate home-made diets, but it is much easier to get the balance of nutrients right using a formulated renal diet.