Lucciano, Bernard, Makani
I originally wrote a version of this post back in 2013 when my first dog, Lucciano, was diagnosed with kidney disease. Since then, I've been lucky to have Bernard (Maltese mix) and Makani (kitty, tabby) in my life. They unfortunately were also diagnosed with kidney disease (Bernard due to meds from his heart condition). I wanted to update this post with everything I have tried and the things that worked that helped give them more time and a good quality of life! I have spent so much time scouring the internet for information when it comes to this and it was always helpful to read real life experiences. I hope this can be helpful for someone who is going through the same thing.
A few things I wanted to mention first:
If you feel sad, scared, discouraged, and upset, I completely understand and wish I could give you a big hug! With the very first kidney disease diagnosis, I was devastated and expected the worst. Lucci's blood work showed that only 1/4 of his kidneys were working. But after 1 month of changing his diet and putting him on supplements (which I will list below), Lucci's blood test came back with improvements and numbers that were almost back in the normal range! And after putting my cat on a supplement, her values went back to normal!
I also had a co-worker who reassured me that the diet change works-- she had a dog diagnosed with renal failure at the age of 12 but no longer had that diagnosis when she passed of old age at 16.
While each diagnosis is different and each pet is different and results may widely vary, I do want to put it out there that a diet change / supplements can yield positive results--I have experienced this and so have people I've known.
And please don't forget that you are trying your best to help your pet and give them the care they deserve and that matters and makes a difference! Thank you for being a caring pet parent and I am sending you lots of positive thoughts and well wishes! ❤️
A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE
Please be sure to consult with your vet before making any changes! Everything I decided to give to my pets was done under the supervision and guidance of my vets! I am not a professional and am just sharing my personal experience. Each pet is different and may have specific needs. I will provide the name of my vets if you are interested in some of the items they provided so that you can consult with them. Although we may live in different states, I think a phone or video consultation would work!
HOW TO COOK TAPIOCA FOR YOUR DOG
When Lucci was diagnosed with kidney disease, I knew nothing about this condition. My vet advised that the first thing to do was to change his diet and put him on supplements *looking back, I have had vets tell me a diet change isn't needed yet but I truly think the faster we do this, the better. She emailed me some recipes (click here to view the recipes) and tapioca was a staple in a few of them which led me to figuring out how to cook it (there were no directions on the bags)! After some trials and sticky tribulations, this is what worked for me.
- Tapioca, small pearled and organic (I used Bob's Red Mill which can be found online or at Whole Foods)
- Couscous and/or Barley (optional, but are great to mix with tapioca if you need the texture to be more solid and less sticky--Lucci wouldn't eat the tapioca alone bc of the gelatin like texture, I think it was hard for him to pick up)
I used a rough ratio of 1 part tapioca and 2 parts couscous/barley mixture. I usually start with 1 cup of the tapioca pearls. This made enough food for about 1 week for Lucci, who is 20 pounds and usually eats about 1 1/2 cups of food per day which is split into 3 meals a day. (Eating more frequently but smaller portions helps the kidneys by not asking them to do a lot of work at once.)
FOR THE TAPIOCA
Place 1 cup of tapioca pearls in a small saucepan and soak in 1 1/2 cups of water for about 15 minutes until all water is absorbed and pearls are enlarged.
Add another 1 1/2 cups of water to the pearls for cooking. Start cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally (I recommend using a silicone spatula if possible.) As the pearls start to become translucent and small blobs of sticky tapioca form, stir frequently.
Continue to stir as most of the pot of tapioca becomes translucent– at this point it may start to bubble and make “blop blop blop” sounds. You can lower the heat and add some more water (to help thin out the tapioca a bit)– keep stirring!
The tapioca is done when all the pearls become translucent (if you have a few that are still white in the center it is OK). It usually takes me about 15 to 20 minutes (less if I am cooking less) for the tapioca to be cooked. It will be one sticky mass. Transfer to a container to let cool. Scrap as much of the tapioca out of the pot as you can with a spatula, this will help with cleaning! I have found that the easiest way for me to clean the pot is to let it sit out until any tapioca left on it has dried. Then I can just peel most of it off!
FOR THE BARLEY
I also add barley to the mix since it is supposed to help relieve symptoms of arthritis which Lucci also had and is also low in phosphorus which is better for his kidneys. I get it in bulk from Whole Foods and cook it the same as rice. I place the barley in a pot with about triple the amount of water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and continue to cook until the barley is very soft, adding more water if needed.
FOR THE COUSCOUS
While the tapioca or barley is cooking, prepare the couscous (which I buy in a box from Trader Joe’s). It is 1 part couscous to 1 part water. In a pot, bring the water to a boil. I add a few drops of unrefined sesame oil to the water as well. Once the water boils, remove from heat and add the couscous. Stir to mix well, cover with a lid, and let sit for about 5 minutes and it’s done!
MIX IT TOGETHER
Once the barely and couscous are ready, I add it to the bowl of tapioca and stir well. If your dog doesn’t mind the stickiness, you can add less of the couscous/barley or not add it at all. This combo of all 3 seems to be what works for Lucci!
Other items I added to the tapioca/barley/couscous mix:
- Organic veggies such as cabbage, asparagus, and/or pumpkin (you can also use the pureed kind and add a small spoonful) boiled, drained, and cut into very small pieces
- Free range, hormone-free, hard boiled eggs, chopped
- Kibble- I would put this in a food processor to make a powder, sometimes I will add this to the tapioca mixture and roll them into mini meatball rounds which were easier for him to eat
- Hormone-free chicken, boiled or cooked in a pressure cooker so it is very soft. Then I chop it so it's very fine and sprinkle it all over his food. He is only recommended to have about 1/4 to 1/2 cup per day for his size/weight (about 20 lbs). Consult with your vet for quantity recommendations.
ANOTHER OPTION - JUST FOOD FOR DOGS RENAL SUPPORT MODERATE PROTEIN
This didn't exist when I had Lucci but it was around when Bernard had kidney disease due to his heart medication. Bernard loved it and had no problems eating it! This food requires a vet prescription. You can find it here: Just Food For Dogs Renal Support Moderate Protein
I also added each of the supplements below to Lucci's food during meal time. These were all recommended and purchased through my vet, Dr. Kim from Lomita Pet Hospital:
- Azodyl (I have to put it into a meatball with a dab of peanut butter on it so that Lucci would eat it)
- Canine Whole Body Support
- Canine Renal Support
When my cat Makani and Bernard were both diagnosed with kidney disease, I had moved and was seeing another vet. Dr. Keng recommended an herbal supplement called Rehmannia 8 to help manage their kidneys.
I immediately put Makani on it and it worked SO well for her (with no other changes needed--her food stayed the same)! Her values went back to normal and remained stable for all her check ups afterwards! It also helped Bernard a little bit but his case was more severe.
It came in pill form that I would put in a pill pocket and cover with gravy/wet food.
I have seen many vets during these past 10 years of having animals and only Dr. Keng seems to be familiar with this herb. If you are interested in giving this to your pet, I recommend consulting with your vet or with Dr. Keng from Culver Pet Clinic. Be sure to ask specifically for her.
Again, please be sure to consult with your vet before making any changes! I am only sharing my personal experiences and have no medical background. Our pets are all different and their treatment plan should be customized specifically for them with the help of a trained professional.
I hope this post can provide you with some comfort and information and be helpful for you and your pet. I am wishing you the very best 💗