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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Dog Cancer diet: Higher Protein Bad For Kidneys?

Updated: April 2nd, 2019

Is High Protein Bad for Dog Kidneys?

Time to bust another myth.

How many of you have heard that “protein is hard on the kidneys?”  Well everyone, it is time for a reality check!

This matters quite a bit for dogs with cancer.  Most of us with some interest in nutrition agree that there is sound logic that a high protein, moderate fat, low simple carbohydrate, low vegetable diet is a good choice for dogs generally, and specifically for systemic cancers.

This data is taken from human research (which is an interesting twist, since we humans can be the lab animals for the dogs!)

But wait!  Someone said that a diet with  higher protein is bad for the kidneys!


First of all, let’s widen back for just a second.  As we all know, dogs used to live out in nature, right?  And guess what these dogs ate? Did they go munch on corn on the cob?  How about a delightful snack of wheat gobbled off the stem? Rice paddy foraging?

No, of course we all know that dogs were hunters primarily, and sometimes scavengers, and nibbled a little bit of berry, shoots, bark or things like that from time to time, when things were lean.

This tells us that the body of the dog, at least out in the wild, was pretty much adapted to eat a lot of protein (since hunted or scavenged meat has tons of protein).

So that’s the “back to nature” argument.  What about the science argument?

There is a bit of confusion around kidneys and protein.  Here’s the bottom line:  if your dog has kidney disease already, high protein will increase the kidney toxins in the bloodstream.

This is very different from saying that high protein causes kidney disease.  That’s wrong!

Here’s a study that showed that dogs with 75% of their kidney tissue gone did fine on a high protein diet. That means that dogs with 2 normal kidneys should be just fine.  Now, unless some new data comes in, it is fine to give a dog a diet that is close to what they would be eating out in nature!

Another fascinating tidbit is that there could be a reason for dogs to eat certain some pre-digested plant materials.  The source of this would likely be the stomach or intestine of the prey animals, which normally contain partially digested plant material.

Why do dogs in the wild like these bits?

I believe that they contain nutrients that are vital to helping the body later in life, when accumulations of deranged cells are supposed to be cleared out by normal body processes.  This process is apoptosis, which is programmed cell death.  Cells that are damaged, infected, oxidized, or otherwise deranged are supposed to commit suicide.

Certain substances in plant material are able to activate apoptosis.  This process is a normal process that I focus on a lot in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide (which has tons more diet details), and was the basis for the supplement engineering behind Apocaps.

So what’s the bottom line?  Dogs with cancer have different needs metabolically, and most vets with an interest in nutrition will recommend a higher protein diet for cancer patients. Unless your dog has kidney disease, and as long as you follow your vet’s directions, it is the best choice at this time.

Best to all,

Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Paula on April 1, 2019 at 11:27 am

    Hi! what would the ideal diet be for a 100 lb dog which has osteosarcoma and kidney disease?

    • Dog Cancer Vet Team on April 2, 2019 at 8:15 am

      Hey Paula!

      Thanks for writing. In general, Dr. D recommends the Dog Cancer Diet for most dogs with cancer. Readers of the blog can get a copy of the diet for free here:

      However, as your dog has a kidney disease, Dr. D recommends consulting with your vet to make adjustments to the diet in order to meet the specific needs of your dog 🙂

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