Kidney Disease in Cats: How to treat it?


Kidney Disease in Cats: How to treat it?

Kidney disease is common in aging household cats and can be fatal if left untreated. Learn the potential triggers, and how a raw cat food diet can alleviate the symptoms of kidney disease. Your cat will be back to their old self in no time!

Your cat’s kidneys play a key role in maintaining hydration, balancing salt and water content in their body, regulating blood pressure, and filtering toxins. Healthy kidneys metabolize protein and excrete waste, but as your cat ages, their kidneys start to fail, resulting in kidney damage. When left untreated, kidney disease can cause a number of health problems or even death. 

The vet always remarks on the beautiful coats and good health of our 16-year-old cats. – Catherine B., Washington 

What Causes Kidney Disease In Cats

Although often times the cause is unknown, there are many potential triggers for kidney disease (also sometimes called chronic renal disease or chronic renal failure) such as:

  • Malformation of the kidneys at birth
  • Chronic bacterial infections
  • High blood pressure
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Immune system disorders

Symptoms of Kidney Disease

Telltale symptoms of kidney disease include:

  • Lethargy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Poor coat condition
  • Excessive thirst and urination

Unfortunately, symptoms are not usually noticeable in the beginning stages of kidney disease.  Approximately 70% of renal function is usually lost before symptoms are noticeable since only 30% of kidney capacity is needed for normal functioning in cats.

If your cat is experiencing any of the above symptoms we recommend consulting your veterinarian.  It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis since kidney disease can exhibit similar symptoms to other diseases.

How is Chronic Kidney Disease in cats typically diagnosed?

CKD in cats is diagnosed through physical exams, blood tests measuring creatinine and BUN, urinalysis to check for dilute urine and proteinuria, blood pressure checks, and possibly imaging. Once diagnosed, the disease is staged to guide treatment, which usually includes dietary changes, fluids, and medications. Close collaboration with a vet is essential for managing CKD in cats.

Is it possible to receive an earlier diagnosis?

Regular veterinary check-ups and proactive monitoring can detect CKD in cats early. Since Chronic Kidney Failure progresses slowly, cats may not show symptoms initially. However, routine blood tests and urinalysis during wellness exams can identify early clinical signs, enabling timely diagnosis and intervention. This enhances the cat's chances of a better prognosis and improved quality of life.

Determining the level of kidney disease

Your veterinarian will assess your cat's degree of kidney disease using blood tests, urinalysis, blood pressure measurement, and sometimes imaging. These findings help determine the stage of kidney disease, ranging from mild to severe, which guides treatment decisions and prognosis. A tailored treatment plan will be developed based on the stage and your cat's specific needs. Regular monitoring and adjustments are essential for effective management.

How does CKD affect my cat?

Chronic Kidney Failure in cats can result in a gradual decline in kidney function, leading to symptoms like dehydration, weight loss, poor appetite, vomiting, increased urination, high blood pressure, electrolyte imbalances, anemia, bone and joint issues, and potential neurological symptoms. Early diagnosis and proper management are crucial for slowing the disease's progression and improving the cat's quality of life.

What is the typical lifespan of a cat with CKD?

The life expectancy of a cat with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) can vary significantly depending on various factors, including the cat's age at diagnosis, the stage of CKD, the effectiveness of treatment, and how well the owner manages the disease. On average:

Early Diagnosis and Management: Cats diagnosed with CKD in its early stages and managed effectively can often live for several years, and some may even reach a normal lifespan.

Advanced Stages: Cats with advanced-stage CKD or inadequate treatment may have a less optimistic prognosis, leading to a significantly shorter lifespan.

Quality of Life: Regardless of the stage of CKD, focusing on maintaining a good quality of life for the cat is crucial. Proper treatment options, including dietary changes, fluid therapy, and medications, can help manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

Collaboration with your veterinarian to create a personalized treatment plan, regular check-ups, and early proactive management are vital for improving your cat's prognosis and ensuring a longer, healthier life with CKD. Each cat is unique, so individualized care is crucial.

Treatment for Cats with Kidney Disease

Depending on the type of veterinarian you see, the recommended treatment will be different.

A traditional veterinarian will likely tell you that a diet low in protein is the optimal diet for cats suffering from kidney disease, while a fresh diet of species-appropriate protein (i.e. animal protein), like those found at Darwin's Natural Cat Food, is recommended by holistic vets and professionals trained in nutritional therapy.

Traditional veterinarians believe that less protein will create less stress on the kidneys, which is a common recommendation when considering food for cats with kidney disease. Additionally, a fresh diet of species-appropriate protein (i.e. animal protein) is recommended by holistic vets and professionals trained in nutritional therapy.

However, not all proteins are created equal. According to Dr. Karen Becker, “If your cat is addicted to a food with rendered ingredients, meaning if your cat is eating a poor quality food that is difficult to digest and process, I do recommend you reduce the amount of toxic protein in the diet. However, if your cat is eating high-quality protein sourced from real animals, then protein restriction is often counterproductive and actually exacerbates common health issues for cats with failing kidneys,” says Dr. Karen Becker.

Of course, any vet-prescribed treatment or medication should not be avoided or discontinued in lieu of a healthy diet.  Kidney disease is a life-long condition, and a combination of a healthy diet and treatment can give your cat many more happy years.



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