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Non-Prescription Commercial Diets for Dogs with Kidney Disease

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Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian, nor do I have any formal training in any medical field. The information presented here is not meant to replace your vet's advice or prescribed medications, but only to suggest additional options to explore, based on your dog's condition.


There are two factors that have been shown to slow progression of kidney disease and prolong life: reducing dietary phosphorus, and adding omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil (EPA and DHA). Note that reducing dietary phosphorus is not necessary and will not help before kidney disease progresses to the point where creatinine is greater than 2.0, or fasted blood phosphorus is above 4.5. Add fish oil in an amount that provides up to 50 mg EPA+DHA combined per pound of body weight daily (this maximum amount has increased from 30 mg in recent years). See my article on Fish Oil for more information.

Some commercial diets approved for adult dogs only, especially senior and light diets, contain low enough phosphorus to be fed to dogs with early stage renal disease (creatinine less than about 2.6 and fasted blood phosphorus no highter than 4.5). A few have been included below, but there is an old chart of many more included in the article Phosphorus Content in Dog Food (always be sure to verify the amount of phosphorus with the manufacturer, as it may have changed). This chart is listed in order of mg phosphorus per hundred calories, which is the best way to look at the data. Note that the numbers provided below are extracted from a number of sources and are not guaranteed to be current; it is always best to contact the manufacturer and ask for a nutritional analysis (not the guaranteed minimum) to be sure.

Not all of the foods listed below are appropriate for dogs with kidney disease, as some have changed since they were originally added. As kidney disease progresses, you might be able to combine the lower phosphorus commercial foods listed below with a prescription kidney diet to improve the overall quality of the diet. Once your dog's fasted blood phosphorus levels rise above 5.0, you will need a prescription kidney diet, as the amount of phosphorus you should feed to your dog at that point is less than AAFCO recommends.

In the table below, use the "dry matter" percentages for comparing wet and dry foods, such as canned vs. kibble. Use the "as fed" values for computing how much you are feeding. In particular, do not use the amount per can or per cup for comparison purposes, as the size of the can/cup varies quite a bit between brands. See Know the Difference: “As Fed” vs. “Dry Matter” Percentages for more information.

Remember that feeding a low protein diet is unnecessary and even harmful unless your dog is uremic, but low phosphorus is advisable. Moderate protein reduction may be required if your dog has proteinuria (significant protein in the urine). Canned food may be preferable to dry, as the extra moisture can help your dog stay hydrated, though you can add water to dry food to accomplish the same purpose.

For comparison purposes, most regular commercial diets have around 1-2% phosphorus on a dry matter basis. A dog with early stage kidney disease should be limited to no more than 0.6% phosphorus on a dry matter basis. Another way to figure it is that you want to feed no more than 30 mg phosphorus per pound of your dog's body weight daily if your dog has early stage kidney disease (less is better). These numbers must be reduced further for dogs with moderate stage kidney disease.

In addition to the high-quality foods listed in the table below, the following foods may have less than 0.6% phosphorus minimum on a dry matter basis, according to a chart I saw in a book. They're not high-quality foods but may be better choices than lower-protein diets for dogs with early-stage disease. Be sure to verify the amount of phosphorus (dry matter) with the manufacturer before feeding any of these foods:

The following foods have phosphorus amounts between 0.6% and 0.7% minimum on a dry matter basis. Again, be sure to verify the amount of phosphorus (dry matter) with the manufacturer before feeding any of these foods: Add water If you feed dry food, it's best to add water to help your dog stay hydrated. Remember that dry food will spoil once water is added, so you shouldn't leave it out all day.

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Adding fresh foods

One option to consider, particularly if your dog does not like any of the prescription kidney diets, is to feed a  lower-phosphorus regular (non-prescription) commercial food such as those listed below, and then add some low-phosphorus fresh foods to reduce the overall percentage of phosphorus in the diet.

If you're feeding a high-protein commercial diet, you can add some low-phosphorus carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta, potatoes and sweet potatoes. If you are feeding a low or average protein commercial diet, you could add fatty meats that are low in phosphorus. You can add a combination of both low-phosphorus fatty meats and carbs to any kind of diet, prescription or otherwise.

For dogs with early stage kidney disease, look for foods to add in the Table of Nutritional Values with less than 100 mg of phosphorus per 100 kcals. The goal is to reduce the amount of phosphorus in the overall diet to around 100 mg per 100 kcals. Dogs with moderate or late-stage kidney disease will need foods with even less phosphorus. You cannot use non-prescription diets at all for these dogs.

Be sure to add calcium, which acts as a phosphorus binder, at the rate of 1,000 mg (1/2 teaspoon ground eggshell, or any other form of plain calcium) per pound of added fresh food.

EXAMPLE: You might provide half the dog's daily calories from a relatively low-phosphorus commercial food (less then 200 mg phosphorus per 100 kcal). The other half of the calories would come from a mixture of half fatty meat, such as 80% lean ground beef or dark meat chicken with skin, plus half low-phosphorus starchy carbs, such as white rice or sweet potatoes (the latter are more nutritious). The mixture would be based on weight, not volume; e.g., 4 oz ground beef plus 4 oz sweet potato, not half a cup of each.

Those mixtures will provide in the neighborhood of 50 calories per ounce, to help you compute how much to give. You'll have to figure out how many calories their dog needs, which you should be able to do based on whatever you've been feeding before. Such a mixture will provide in the neighborhood of 50 mg phosphorus per 100 kcal.

You must add calcium at the rate of around 1,000 mg per pound of added food. You can use ground eggshell (1/2 tsp eggshell powder provides 1,000 mg calcium), or any other form of plain calcium. Calcium helps to bind phosphorus, as well as meeting dietary needs. Dogs with kidney disease should get two to three times as much calcium as phosphorus in their diets.

The more fresh foods that are added to the diet, the more important it becomes to balance the diet in the long term (short term, a few weeks to maybe a few months, it's OK to feed an incomplete diet). This is especially true for younger dogs, who may be on the diet for years. So if half the diet is fresh foods, just fatty meat plus starchy grains won't provide all the nutrition your dog needs. Add a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement that does not include phosphorus to help make up the difference.

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Dog Food Mixes

The easiest way to create a diet is by using Balance IT Canine K Plus. Unlike the regular Balance IT Canine-K, the Plus form contains no added phosphorus. I do not recommend using the regular form that does contain phosphorus.

You will need your vet's approval in order to generate recipes and purchase this supplement, but they make that easy to get. Unfortunately, the recipes generated are lower in protein than is necessary for most dogs with kidney disease, unless your dog has significant protein in the urine. The recipes are sometimes higher in omega-6 fatty acids than is advisable for dogs with kidney disease, especially if using poultry (if the nutritional analysis for "18:2 undifferentiated" is much above 100%, reduce the percentage of calories from fat or switch out the plant oil for coconut oil or olive oil when you customize the recipe). The recipes recommend using Welactin for Dogs, a fish oil supplement with 1,440 mg EPA+DHA combined per scoop (6 ml). You may want to give more fish oil than the recipes recommend (up to 30 mg EPA+DHA combined per pound of body weight daily for dogs with kidney disease).

To generate recipes, select Free AutoBalancer EZ for Vet Patients from the Homemade Food menu on the left. Next, click on Kidney Disease, then select the appropriate option for your dog using Canine K Plus. Use Customize Recipe to set your dog's weight, and also to increase the percentage of calories from Protein. You may also want to increase the amount of fat, as long as your dog doesn't have problems with too much fat. You will need to try different combinations to determine the maximum amount of protein you can request in order for the recipe to "pass." For example, the default Beef & White Rice recipe for early-stage kidney disease has 17% of calories from protein and 25% from fat. I was able to increase the percentage of protein to 22% (but no higher) while leaving the percentage of fat at 25% (higher or lower didn't affect the amount of protein I could use). The generated recipe had 526 mg phosphorus per Mcal (1,000 calories), or 52.6 mg phosphorus per 100 kcal, to compare to other foods on the chart below. Note that this amount of phosphorus is more appropriate for dogs with late-stage kidney disease then dogs with early-stage disease.

There are no longer any dog food base mixes that I know can be relied on to create a diet for dogs with early stage kidney disease. These mixes are designed to be combined with fresh foods to create a complete diet. Use higher-fat meats, tripe, whole milk ricotta cheese and combinations of whole eggs and egg whites to keep phosphorus levels reasonable, as long as your dog can tolerate a high-fat diet. Be sure to use a variety of fresh foods, not just one kind, and it's OK to feed very small amounts of foods that are higher in phosphorus, such as liver, for variety and better nutrition. Use the Table of Nutritional Values to see the amount of phosphorus per 100 kcals in various foods (far right column). Although these foods are designed to have fresh foods added, I would still add calcium at the rate of 500 mg (1/4 teaspoon ground eggshell, or any other form of plain calcium) per pound of added fresh food to help bind phosphorus.

Be sure to verify the amount of phosphorus (dry matter) with the manufacturer before feeding any of these foods:

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Using the Table

To use the table below, pay most attention to the column on the far right, Phosphorus mg per 100 kcals. For dogs with early stage kidney disease, try to find a food (or combination of foods) with 150 mg of phosphorus or less per 100 kcals. The same is true of fresh foods you add to the diet, from the Table of Nutritional Values.
Also pay attention to the next column to the left, Phosphorus (dry matter). For dogs with early stage kidney disease, you would want to feed a diet that is 0.60% or less phosphorus (dry matter). Again, you may be able to combine two different foods, one with higher phosphorus and one with lower, to get them to average out to the numbers you're looking for. You can also add fresh foods to help reduce the overall percentage of phosphorus in the diet (see above).

Note that dogs with significant proteinuria need a diet moderately reduced in protein in order to control the amount of protein in the urine, most accurately measured by urine protein:creatinine (UPC) ratio. I have not been able to determine exactly what level requires a dietary adjustment. UPC of 0.5 -0.9 is considered questionable and 1.0 is considered definitely abnormal, but glomerulonephritis is not usually diagnosed unless the UPC is 3.0 or above.

If your dog is uremic, with BUN over 80, creatinine over 4.0, and symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, inappetence and lethargy, you will have to reduce the amount of protein, but not otherwise (as long as there is not significant proteinuria), as protein only affects symptoms, it doesn't harm the kidneys (other than increasing inflammation when protein is being lost in the urine).

Note that those foods shown in red below used to provide values indicating that they were low in phosphorus, but later values indicated they have much more phosphorus than shown before. There's no way to know if that's due to a change in formulation, or just inaccurate information. One of the problems with feeding non-prescription foods is that the analyses are not as reliable. Be sure to ask for an actual nutritional analysis, not just a guaranteed minimum. If the company can't or won't provide you with this information, you cannot rely on them for a special-needs diet.

Be sure to verify the amount of phosphorus (dry matter) with the manufacturer before feeding any of these foods.

If you discover that a food on my list now has different levels of phosphorus than what I show, please let me know. Also let me know if you find a low-phosphorus food (150 mg phosphorus per 100 kcal or less) that I have not listed, I would also appreciate your telling me. You can find my contact info at the bottom of the page.

Update February 2018: All foods from the following brands are too high in phosphorus for dogs with creatinine greater than 2.0 or fasted blood phosphorus greater than 4.5: Acana, California Natural, EVO, First Mate, Grandma Lucy's Artisan, Pureformance and Macanna lines (Valor is OK); Lotus (canned); Orijen; The Honest Kitchen; Sojo's; Tiki Dog; Wellness (all dry foods, including Complete Health, CORE, Simple, TruFood, and TruFood Make It Fresh; Wysong (not a complete list).

Comparison of Calories, Protein and Phosphorus in Selected Commercial Diets with (or formerly with) Relatively Low Phosphorus
Food Calories
(as fed)
(as fed)
(as fed)
mg/100 kcal
Dry Foods
Blue Buffalo Senior 3398/kg
(35 oz)
456/cup (4.75 oz)
24 g/cup 1,073 mg/cup 20.0% 0.89% 235
Canine Caviar Special Needs 3519/kg
(35 oz)
(4 oz)
20 g/cup 680 mg/cup 19.6% 0.65% 185
Burns Original Chicken & Brown Rice (UK, Europe, Hong Kong) 3,300/kg
(35 oz)
    18.9% 0.76% 212
Burns Original Fish & Brown Rice (UK, Europe, Hong Kong) 3,280/kg
(35 oz)
    18.9% 0.91% 255
Dr E's Rx Formula Duck Dog Food (made by Great Life) 3,717/kg
(4 oz)
20 g/cup 747 mg/cup 20.0% 0.73% 177
First Mate Pacific Ocean Fish 3,226/kg
(35 oz)
(5.5 oz)
36 g/cup 775 mg/cup 25.6% 0.56% 155
First Mate Pacific Ocean Fish Large Breed 3,600/kg (35.3 oz)
(5.5 oz)
39 g/cup 930 mg/cup 27.8% 0.67% 167
First Mate Ocean Fish Senior 3,032/kg (35.3 oz)
(5.5 oz)
28 g/cup 775 mg/cup 20.0% 0.56% 165
Great Life Dog Food -- Chicken 3,643/kg 414/cup
(4 oz)
27 g/cup 987 mg/cup 26.9% 0.97% 202
Great Life Grain Free Dog Food -- Open Range Chicken 3,991/kg
(4 oz)
37 g/cup 907 mg/cup 36.7% 0.89% 200
Holistic Blend Lamb & Rice (Canadian) 3,390/kg     25.0% 0.75% 204
Holistic Select Weight Management 3,220/kg
(3.3 oz)
20.7 g/cup 701 mg/cup 24.6% 0.83% 232
Holistic Select Senior Health 3606/kg
(3.6 oz)
26.5 g/cup 714 mg/cup 28.9% 0.78% 194
Lotus Regular Bites Chicken Recipe for Senior Dogs 3343/kg 375.7/cup (4.0 oz) 20.7 g/cup 549 mg/cup 20.6% 0.54% 147
Lotus Small Bites Chicken Recipe for Senior Dogs 3343/kg 632.8/cup (6.7 oz) 35 g/cup 926 mg/cup 20.6% 0.54% 147
Royal Canin Mature Consult 314/cup
(3 oz)
20.7 g/cup 534 mg/cup 25.6% 0.66% 170
Royal Canin Mini Mature +8 360/cup
(3.3 oz)
23.3 g/cup 563 mg/cup 27.8% 0.68% 162
Royal Canin Mini Aging +12 322 kcal/cup (3.0 oz) 20.0 g/cup 350 mg/cup 26.7% 0.46% 112
Royal Canin Maxi Adult 5+ 331/cup
(3.1 oz)
21.1 g/cup 626 mg/cup 26.7% 0.79% 188
Royal Canin Maxi Aging 8+ 301/cup
(2.8 oz)
20.3 g/cup 488 mg/cup 27.8% 0.67% 160
Royal Canin X-Small Aging +12 360 kcal/cup (3.2 oz) 20.2 g/cup 423 mg/cup 24.4% 0.51% 128
SquarePet VFS Low Phosphorus Formula Dry Dog Food 4400/kg
462 kcal/cup
(8 oz)
15.1 g/cup 323 mg/cup 15.5% 0.32% 70
Wellness Complete Health Deboned Chicken & Oatmeal 407/cup
(4 oz)
25.1 g/cup 904 mg/cup 24.7% 0.90% 224
Wellness Complete Health Deboned Chicken & Peas 325/cup
(3.6 oz)
21.5 g/cup 613 mg/cup 23.6% 0.67% 189
Wellness Complete Health Deboned Chicken & Barley 340/cup
(3.7 oz)
22.2 g/cup 792 mg/cup 23.6% 0.84% 233
Wellness Large Breed Complete Health Adult Deboned Chicken & Brown Rice 336/cup
(3.5 oz)
25.0 g/cup 750 mg/cup 28.1% 0.84% 223
Canned Foods 
Castor & Pollux Organix Organic Turkey & Vegetable Recipe 423/can (12.7 oz)
25 g/can 573 mg/can 27.3% 0.62% 194
Castor & Pollux Organix Organic Turkey, Carrot & Potato Recipe 442/can (12.7 oz)
25 g/can 566 mg/can 27.2% 0.61% 164
Castor & Pollux Organix Organic Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe 411/can (12.7 oz)
25 g/can 856 mg/can 26.2% 0.89% 170
Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Organic Turkey & Vegetable Formula 445/can (12.7 oz)
27 g/can 806 mg/can 27.7% 0.83% 194
Castor & Pollux Organix Grain Free Organic Turkey, Carrot & Potato Recipe 451/can (12.7 oz)
27 g/can 626 mg/can 28.0% 0.65% 164
Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Chicken & Vegetable Recipe 425/can (12.7 oz)
27 g/can 813 mg/can 27.9% 0.84% 186
Castor & Pollux Organix Grain Free Organic Chicken & Potato Recipe 434/can (12.7 oz)
27 g/can 766 mg/can 27.0% 0.82% 169
Castor & Pollux Organix Butcher & Bushel Grain Free Organic Shredded Chicken Dinner with Potatoes in Gravy 360/can (12.7 oz)
25 g/can 681 mg/can 27.7% 0.75% 189
Merrick Chunky Carver's Delight Dinner 375/can (12.7 oz) 29 g/can 866 mg/can 44.4% 1.15% 231
Merrick Chunky Pappy's Pot Roast Dinner 323/can (12.7 oz) 29 g/can 707 mg/can 44.4% 1.09% 219
Merrick Chunky Colossol Chicken Dinner 347/can (12.7 oz) 29 g/can 982 mg/can 44.4% 1.51% 283
Royal Canin Mature Consult 362/can
(13.6 oz)
34.6 g/can 579 mg/can 38.1% 0.68% 160
Solid Gold Green Cow Tripe Dog Food 374/can (13.2 oz) 35.7 g/can 636+ mg/can 41% 0.9% 169
Weruva Dogs in the Kitchen Fowl Ball 135/can
(10 oz)
25.7 g/can 312 mg/can 47.9% 0.63% 114
Weruva Dogs in the Kitchen Funk in the Trunk 180/can
(10 oz)
26.1 g/can 312 mg/can 52.6% 0.63% 121
Weruva Dogs in the Kitchen Love Me Tender 182/can
(10 oz)
25.5 g/can 312 mg/can 47.7% 0.58% 117
Weruva Dogs in the Kitchen The Double Dip 175/can
(10 oz)
25.4 g/can 397 mg/can 51.8% 0.81% 159
Weruva Hot Dayam! 425/can
(14 oz)
33.8 g/can 595 mg/can 43.4% 0.75% 137
Weruva That's My Jam! 389/can
(14 oz)
40.7 g/can 516 mg/can 53.9% 0.67% 131
Weruva Wok the Dog

(14 oz)

35.1 g/can 397
50.2% 0.57% 130
Wysong Gourmet* 184-220/can (5.5 oz) 18.1-21.2 g/can 243 mg/can 44.7-52.4% 0.60% 110-132
Dehydrated Foods **
Essex Cottage Farms Kidney Diet**       9.4-15%  0.25%  
Essex Cottage Farms Hypoallergenic** 419/100 grams 21% 0.49% 117
Grandma Lucy's Valor Chicken (Valor Turkey and Fish varieties are comparable) 554/dry cup (4.75 oz), 4107/kg 40 g/dry cup 647 mg/dry cup 32.6% 0.52% 112
Grandma Lucy's Artisan Dog Food Chicken
*WARNING* Too Much Phosphorus!
439/dry cup (4 oz), 3867/kg 30 g/dry cup 1135
mg/dry cup
28.1% 1.08% 259
Grandma Lucy's Artisan Pre-Mix** (must add meat)
*WARNING* Too Much Phosphorus!
390/dry cup (4 oz), 3440/kg 15 g/dry cup 907 mg/dry cup 14.4% 0.89% 232
Honest Kitchen Keen 470/dry cup 22.7 g/dry cup 1000 mg/ dry cup 21.9% 0.96% 213
Honest Kitchen Love 514/dry cup 37 g/dry cup 1012 mg/ dry cup 34.9% 0.95% 197
Honest Kitchen Preference** 398/dry cup 13.6 g/dry cup 737 mg/ dry cup 13.2% 0.71% 185
Honest Kitchen Zeal 437/dry cup 41.7 g/dry cup 897 mg/ dry cup 39.5% 0.85% 205
Frozen Foods
JustFoodForDogs Beef and Russet Potato*** 1,440/kg (40/oz) 2.5 g/oz 43 mg/oz 32% 0.60% 105
JustFoodForDogs Lamb and Brown Rice*** 1,643/kg (46/oz) 2.1 g/oz 40 mg/oz 24% 0.49% 87
JustFoodForDogs Turkey and Macaroni*** 1,418/kg (40/oz) 2.9 g/oz 36 mg/oz 28.5% 0.36% 89
My Perfect Pet Kidney Support Blend 1374/kg (312/8-oz bar) 13.6 g per 8-oz bar 156 mg per 8-oz bar 20.3% 0.23% 50
My Perfect Pet Snuggles Blend (Reduced Mineral) 1,548/kg (357/8-oz bar) 20.4 g per 8-oz bar 340 mg per 8-oz bar 31.0% 0.53% 95
My Perfect Pet Boomer's Blend 1,582/kg (359/8-oz bar) 24.9 g per 8-oz bar 408 mg per 8-oz bar 35% 0.60% 114
My Perfect Pet Roxy's Blend 1,852/kg (420/8-oz bar) 22.7 g per 8-oz bar 435 mg per 8-oz bar 29% 0.55% 104
My Perfect Pet Ultra Low Glycemic Chicken/Beef 1,340-1,429/kg (304-324/
8-oz bar)
34.0/43.1 g per 8-oz bar 349/368 mg per 8-oz bar 67%/71% 0.7%/
Nature's Logic Raw Frozen Beef Formula(phosphorus incorrectly reported, do not use)         1.27% 263
Cooked Foods
Caru Daily Dish Beef Stew 261/pack
(12.5 oz)
18 g/pack 405 mg/pack 31.6% 0.60% 141
Caru Daily Dish Chicken Stew 254/pack
(12.5 oz)
18 g/pack 376 mg/pack 31.6% 0.56% 128
Caru Daily Dish Turkey with Lamb Stew 291/pack
(12.5 oz)
18 g/pack 361 mg/pack 32.5% 0.54% 124
Caru Daily Dish Beef with Chicken Stew 294/pack
(12.5 oz)
18 g/pack 393 mg/pack 31.6% 0.58% 138
Caru Daily Dish Turkey Stew 287/pack
(12.5 oz)
21 g/pack 431 mg/pack 33.0% 0.71% 150

* Wysong makes high quality foods, but their Nephreon prescription kidney diet is higher in phosphorus than other prescription kidney diets, so it would only be appropriate for dogs with very early stage kidney disease whose phosphorus levels are normal (and it's questionable even then). According to the manufacturer, Nephreon is essentially Archetype with added nutraceuticals to support the kidneys. Most of Wysong's other foods are actually lower in phosphorus than either Nephreon or Archetype. See their Dry Matter Analysis of Wysong Pet Foods for percentages of all their regular foods (does not include prescription diets). Note that the canned "Au Jus" foods are just meat and organs, they are not complete diets. Of the three canned Gourmet foods, Liver is the best (lowest) and Seafood is the worst (highest) in terms of phosphorus per 100 kcals.

** You can't compare the figures for the various mixes directly to each other, as ECF figures are as fed (with water and meat added), while the rest are dry (before adding water, meat and other foods):

*** JustFoodForDogs also offers JustDoItYourself kits for their Daily Meals (but not their Vet Support Diets), consisting of a recipe and a customized supplement blend, so you can make this food yourself at home. Customized recipes and supplement blends can also be created for a one-time fee of $195. Once created, you have the option of having the company make the food for you, or you can buy the recipe and supplement blend to make the food yourself at home. Note that the Balanced Remedy is extremely low in fat.

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I regret that I no longer have much time to respond to questions. See my Contact page for more information. My name is Mary Straus and you can email me at either or


Rocky is a Yorkie-Poodle mix who had suffered from digestive problems his whole life. Click on his image to read about the diet his owner finally found to help him.
Pashoshe Fisher, a Chihuahua, was a wonderful, joyful companion to his owner for 19 & a half years. He was on a high quality raw diet for over half his life.
This is Ella, my Norwich Terrier.
Uremia refers to very high BUN and creatinine causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite and lethargy.