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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ask the Vet: Digestion in Senior Dogs

by Mark Nunez, DVM
© courtesy Tracy Out West via
Rufus, a Standard Poodle

Hi Dr. Mark,

I have a 12 year old standard poodle (the light of my life). He is now having trouble pooping as easily as he once did, and the amount is less.

I talked to my vet and he said as long as he is able to still poop, it is not dire, and he asked me to change his food from Hill's id  to Hills kd, which is for the kidneys. He said his kidneys are getting weaker because he is older. (we did blood tests on him, and they were good, just showing age).

My concern is I have never felt good about Hills products in general, but now with the kd, I read the ingredients label, and it is frightening. I don't want to feed my dog that, but I do want him to live as long as possible. 

To add to the dilemma, Oscar and I moved to Panama 2 years ago, and finding a good dog food here is tricky. Hills is everywhere of course, but I have not noticed any other good names, so I would probably have to have it shipped (costing a fortune). 

So my question is which food would you recommend for Oscar's aging kidneys and pooper, so I might see if I can get it here. I really appreciate your help, as Oscar is so important to me.

xoxo, Sandy and Oscar
Hi Sandy,
Many people have issue with Hill's.  I am not a huge fan of many of their nonprescription lines.  The only nonprescrition food of theirs that I like are Ideal Balance or Healthy Advantage.  Niether of these are appropriate for your dog.  

One thing that doesn't sit right with me is the statement "we had blood tests done on him, and they were good, just showing age."  Age is not a disease.  Many people, and many vets, sort of make it seem that way, but that's not the case.  Things happen as we age, but age itself is not a disease.  If your dog's kidney values (BUN and Creatinine) are elevated AND his urine specific gravity (a measurement of how well the kidneys are working) is in a certain range (1.010-1.020) then his kidneys have lost at least 75% of their function.  

The key to longevity in this case is to decrease the workload on the kidneys.  This is done by feeding a diet that is low in protein, but one that contains high quality protein.  Mineral content, especially phosphorus, is also important.  In your situation, Hill's K/D seems most logical.  I'm not sure what you do not like about the ingredients.  K/D is a well made food with good ingredients.  See my post on Pet Foods to help you interpret food labels and ingredient lists.  Royal Canin also makes renal diets, LP and MP.  Which of these to choose depends on how high the kidney values are.  MP is for the earlier stages, LP for the later stages.  Another alternative is to visit  They will work with your veterinarian to create a custom diet for your dog that you can prepare at home.  This is a great way to feed a fresh diet that is nutritionally balanced and appropriate for a dog in renal failure. 
As for the constipation issue.  I would feed for renal, and medically manage the constipation.  Medical management of constipation would include fiber (canned pumpkin or Metamucil), Lactulose (draws water into the intestines), MiraLAX, and/or mineral oil. 
Hope this helps!
Dr. Mark
Dr. Nunez is a practicing veterinarian while also assisting patients through The Balanced Canine blog and his own online veterinary pharmacyHave a question for Dr. Mark? Send it to You can also follow Mark on Twitter.

Want to read more from Dr. Mark? Try these, or visit his archives: 
The Dangers of Animal Bones
Tuberculosis and Dogs
Timing of Feeding

Dr. Nunez's articles reflect his opinion which is based on his personal experiences and education. 


Niki & Paco said...

we do the pumpkin thing... we get fresh pumpkin and steam it... have even dehydrated it.... good snack... living abroad makes finding food hard too.. Fish for dog did great on controling his stinkyness, and no more yeast in ears, but i still have to give him joint supplements.. next step is weight..lolol

Kingslandkennels said...

Nice blog!

Gryphon said...

Thanks for the post. You are correct - Aging isn't a disease - but as pet owners we need to be sensitive to their changing needs as we do at all the various stages of life. Pets with concerned and involved Vets and owners are very fortunate.

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