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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Features February 2013 Issue

How to Treat Treats for dogs

“It’s really important not to defeat the purpose of a therapeutic diet prescribed for a dog with kidney disease by feeding inappropriate treats,” says Tufts veterinary nutritionist Cailin Heinze, VMD. For instance, she points out, “bully sticks, pigs’ ears, rawhides – all of those are really high in protein, which is bad for a dog whose kidneys are failing. And the quality of the protein is poor, so it’s a double whammy.” The poor-quality protein won’t become incorporated into the body’s tissues but will have to get broken down, giving the kidneys even more protein to handle in their compromised state. Thus, “if you’re feeding those kinds of treats on top of a prescribed therapeutic kidney diet,” Dr. Heinze cautions, “you could be negating some of the effects of the diet.”

“Even giving your dog her medications wrapped in high-protein or high-sodium foods, like cheese or deli meat,” Dr. Heinze says, “may diminish the benefit of the diet. Meats and cheeses are usually too high in phosphorus for a dog with kidney disease on top of being too high in protein.”

“A win-win,” Dr. Heinze points out, “are fruits and vegetables” because they are low in both protein and phosphorus. You have to work with a veterinarian in making choices, though, because some produce, including bananas and sweet potatoes, may be too high in potassium for some dogs with kidney disease.

Some cereals meant for people, like four or five pieces of Honey Nut Cheerios or Corn Pops, also make reasonable treats for a dog with kidney disease. “They’re a little bit less healthful for us,” Dr. Heinze says, “but they don’t have a lot of the nutrients we worry about in a dog with failing kidneys.”

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