Your Cat and Kidney Disease
Chances are if you have ever met a skinny senior cat, they have progressive kidney failure, also known as kidney disease. Kidney disease is the most commonly developed disease in cats next to dental disease. What many cat owners don’t know is that kidney disease is very preventable in the majority of cases. Unfortunately the symptoms do not become apparent to cat owners until the kidneys have lost about 70% of their function, and damage is irreversible. There are a number of treatments to help prevent further kidney damage and increase kidney function, but it is always the best course of action to prevent it from developing in the first place.
Kidneys 101: The Body’s Toxin Filter
All the blood in the body passes through the kidneys. Toxins and excess water in the blood are drawn into the nephrons, the “filter” in the kidney, which then leaves the kidney through ureters into the bladder, and then finally leaves the body from the urethra. Toxins are brought into the kidneys by osmosis and the presence of water is required for osmosis to occur. In short, the more water in the blood, the more water drawn into the kidneys, allowing for more toxins also to be brought into the kidney for excretion.
Water is Essential for Healthy Kidney Function
Being dehydrated affects all parts of the body. Chronic dehydration means blood is not properly circulating through the kidneys and so neither are the toxins in the blood. Instead the toxins sit in the kidneys which causes damage to kidney cells.
Chronic dehydration is a serious issue for cats and dogs on a kibble diet and this is especially true for cats. Cats are desert animals, one of their evolutionary traits is not having a thirst drive. In their native habitat where there was little to no water available, they were acquiring their fluids from the animals they were consuming. Even with water readily available to them at home in a water dish, it would be unusual to see a cat drinking out of their water dish very often unless there is an underlying health condition.
Kidney Health and Diet
The easiest way to help take care of your cat’s kidneys is through diet. Meals with high moisture content or added water ensures that your cat is consuming enough water regularly. This should be the number one priority if nothing else. Feeding clean, biologically appropriate food means your cat’s body does the minimal work to digest it’s food. Foods with no added grain, starch, sugar, salt, preservatives, coagulants, fruits or vegetables are ideal. Diet with the natural sources of vitamins and minerals rather than synthetic are even better. Natural vitamins and minerals are more bioavailable this way.
Does Your Kitty Have Progressive Kidney Failure?
As your kitty ages your vet will suggest doing regular blood work, this includes monitoring how well the kidneys are functioning. If you suspect your cat is developing kidney failure talk to your vet right away so you can help prevent further damage. Typical symptoms are the following:
- Increased frequency in urination and volume urine excreted
- Increased thirst, this could be drinking a whole bowl of water in a day
- Lethargy and depression
- Noticeable weight loss in a short period of time
- Tender abdomen, resistance to being picked up when they were not before (kidneys are sore), irritable when they previously were not
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Anemic (gums and ears may be pale or white)
Not all cats will present all of these symptoms right away. The most common and obvious symptoms are the increased urination, water consumption and rapid weight loss. These symptoms alone are enough to take your cat to the vet right away to investigate.
It is worth mentioning that toxins such as plants toxic to cats, insecticides, rat poison, mold in bad batches of kibble, certain household cleaning products and others can cause acute kidney failure or multi organ system failure. See your vet if you suspect poisoning.
Treatment for Kidney Disease through Diet
There are several things you can do to to help prevent further damage and decrease the amount of work for the kidneys. The number one treatment is to help alleviate the work for the kidneys is the same as prevention, lots and lots of water. By adding as much water as you can to the food (sometimes cats will let you turn their meals into soup if you are lucky) you are ensuring your cat isn’t dehydrated and making easier to filter toxins. This is helpful at any stage of kidney disease.
Kidneys are no longer functioning at their most efficient level once damage is done to the cells. Feeding a diet that requires less filtering causes less wear and tear. Many additives like preservatives, salt, grains and MSG are all things a cat’s body doesn’t use and creates more work for the kidneys. Raw food is great for this reason. Any good brand or source of raw food only contains the essentials: muscle meat, organ and bone. A cat’s body is built to digest this, and there is nothing the body isn’t using.
If the kidney disease is more advanced it is helpful to reduce the phosphorus in the diet. Many veterinarians and cat owners alike make the mistake of reducing the protein in the diet to decrease the phosphorus since meat protein contains high levels of phosphorus. Unfortunately this can do more harm than good. Often low protein foods for cats have fillers and preservatives. A healthy alternative is replacing some meat protein with egg whites, adding some dark leafy greens to the diet (binds with phosphorus), or adding a phosphorus binder prescribed by your vet. Milk thistle, best known for cleansing the liver is also good for kidneys.
Finding out your cat has kidney disease can be a scary and daunting diagnosis. But many cats with kidney disease, with proper treatment, have been known to live many happy years after their diagnosis.
If you have any questions about your cat and their diet or special needs, feel free to give us a call or come into the store.
-The TC Pack