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Therapeutic Kidney Diets Can Extend Your Cats Life:
Chronic kidney (renal) disease is very common in older cats. The prevalence of renal disease increases with age with almost one-third of cats over 12 years of age having this problem. There is no cure for chronic kidney failure but the gradual loss of function can be slowed with proper management. It is proven that therapeutic renal diets improve quality of life for renal failure patients. Clinical nutrition trials have shown that survival times will at least double for these cats. The trick is to recognize the problem early enough.
Cats are the masters of hiding signs of illness no matter what the disease. For chronic kidney disease the best signs to look for are excess water consumption and increased urination. There is often a slow progression so it sometimes takes close observation of the litter pan. If you have one kitty it is a little easier to notice the extra urine production. You may also see your cat spending extra time at the water bowl. Recognizing these signs are much more difficult in a multi-cat household. If you suspect your cat is drinking more water, a trip to your veterinarian is in order. A routine wellness panel at the laboratory to check blood values and urinalysis will give the diagnosis. Once the signs of chronic renal failure appear (poor appetite, weight loss, lethargy, and vomiting) 75 percent of the renal function has been lost. That is why it is so important to start the therapeutic diet early and preserve your cats health.
These diets are technically by prescription and are only available from your veterinarian. This is because they are not appropriate for normal healthy cats. The kidney diets are generally lower in protein and higher in fat. It is important not to lower the protein too much because cats have higher protein requirements. This is why renal diets have protein sources that have higher biologic value. Also, therapeutic diets have lower phosphorus, additional potassium and reduced sodium.
As we all know, cats can be very finicky and have strong opinions about what they eat. Thankfully some of the newer diets (e.g. Hills Prescription K/D) have been made into stews with different flavors. these new diets are much more palatable and get great reviews from the cats (and their owners). Still, some kidney patients are reluctant to eat no matter what the food. These kitties are often prescribed appetite stimulants and medications to reduce gastric acid. It is also very important that cats with chronic kidney disease drink plenty of water. Supplying fresh water with additional bowls and fountains (e.g. PetSafe drinkwell) can increase fluid intake. Also feeding canned food, which is 70 percent moisture, is helpful.
Of course diets can only do so much, and most cats with chronic kidney failure will require intravenous or subcutaneous fluid therapy. Many owners are willing to learn how to give the SQ injections at home. Cats with more advanced renal disease may occasionally need hospitalization for IV fluids. Treatments can also be complicated by other diseases such as hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, anemia, and bladder infections. These cases can become quite complex with time so the first step is early recognition of renal disease in the older cat to get started with the proper diet as soon as possible.