HELP! My cat's been diagnosed with kidney disease.. Now what?
Hearing that your little one has been diagnosed with kidney disease may be one of the scariest things in the world.
Our pets are our babies.. Our partners.. Our life-long companions, and we want them to be happy and healthy, for as long as they live.
Kidney disease, also known as renal failure, is the most common medical disease affecting cats.. and today, we're here to make sense of it all.
Keep reading to learn more about the disease - its causes, effects, and what you can do to improve the quality of life for your beloved feline friend.
What is kidney disease in cats?
Kidney disease in cats, is a disease that affects.. Well you guessed it - the kidneys.
Cat’s kidneys are composed of these teeny, tiny nephrons that work to remove waste products from the bloodstream, and deposit them outside of the body through the urinary tract.
When kidney disease develops, nephrons begin to deteriorate, and lose their ability to efficiently clean the blood. Toxins build up, and when waste accumulates, cats may experience nausea, vomiting, and/or dehydration.
Toxin build up may also lead to problems with blood pressure, and/or red blood cell production.
How many types of feline kidney disease are there?
There are two types of feline kidney disease: acute kidney disease, and chronic kidney disease.
Both involve a loss of kidney function, but differentiate in onset and duration.
Acute kidney disease typically results from an abrupt, or severe injury to the kidneys, whereas chronic kidney disease often results from a combination of things like genetic predispositions, aging, and environmental and individual factors.
Chronic kidney disease is lifelong, whereas acute kidney disease is short-term (although it can become chronic, depending on the cause, severity, and initial course of action).
Keep in mind that once the disease becomes chronic, there is no cure - only treatments designed to relieve discomfort, and potentially slow the progression, thus extending your little ones life. So, prevent first.. but TREAT second!
How did my cat get kidney disease?
Rest assured, you are not the world's worst pet owner.
Since the disease is so widespread and varied, it’s often difficult to pinpoint a single contributing factor (and more often than not, there’s many).
According to Dr. Celeste Clements, the 10 most common causes of feline kidney disease are: an infection of kidney tissues, kidney stones, kidney blockages, toxins, damage to kidney tubules, FIP, cancer, protein problems, and/or genetics.
How long will my pet live after their diagnosis?
This one’s tricky, because.. It depends. And it depends on a lot, actually.
Is it chronic? Is it acute? How far into the diagnosis are we? What may have caused it? How severe is the damage? And what can I do to contribute to my cat's wellbeing?
Luckily, kidney disease isn’t in-and-of-itself an immediate death sentence. In fact, it’s known to be a progressive, and highly variable disease among cats.
Discussing with your vet, and understanding where your pet is in the process though, will always give you the best insight into where things are at.
Your vet will likely perform a series of blood tests, physical examinations, and urinalyses to further make appropriate recommendations regarding treatment options.
What are my treatment options?
Speaking of treatment options… What are they?
First and foremost, we want to make it clear: treatment ≠ cure.
If it’s chronic, it’s incurable - and no treatment on the market will reverse the disease and all of its effects (although we wish that were true).
Treating, however, means that you’ll be able to provide palliative care, so that your pet can remain as comfortable as possible, for as long as possible.
Here are some of the best ways to care for your cat’s kidneys…
1. Modify their diet/Restrict their phosphorus intake
Let’s dig into the pet pantry, shall we?
The number one thing you can do to improve your CKD cat’s quality of life is to CHANGE. THEIR. DIET!!!
This article suggests that evidence shows, feeding a moderately low phosphorus diet is well-tolerated in older cats, and “may have an impact on renal function, and could be useful in early chronic kidney disease.”
Several pet food retailers such as Royal Canin, and Hill’s Science Diet have formulated and marketed “prescription-only” low phosphorus pet food formulas that support this research.
If you’re looking to try a restricted phosphorus diet, at a price you can afford, Dave’s Pet Food makes a fantastic non prescription low phosphorus cat food, that’s one of the only “non-prescription” pet foods out there.
Want a free can? Just ask!
Dave is always happy to let you, your feline friend, and their veterinarian review his food.
Click here to check out the formula, and request your free sample.
2. Encourage water consumption
Don’t underestimate how important water is, to the functioning of your cat’s kidneys.
The best way to flush out toxins is through water consumption and urination.
Cats are stubborn little fellas.. but encouraging them to stay hydrated will only improve their condition and alleviate those pesky, often painful symptoms.
If your cat isn’t a fan of lapping water from a bowl, try providing a fountain, or let your faucet drip for a while (the running water might entice them).
Exchange their dry food for canned food to help increase moisture, or place water bowls around the house - that way, your feline friend doesn’t have to go far for a drink.
Food and water aside.. You’ll probably also want to…
3. Watch their weight
While the jury’s still out on this one, a handful of researchers believe that overweight or diabetic cats are more likely to develop CKD.
In this study, researchers found that about “4 of 30 cats who were recently diagnosed with diabetes, developed CKD within 6 months of treatment.”
And in this study, the multivariate analysis showed that diabetes was significantly associated with CKD.
In any case, it doesn’t hurt to put your little one on a healthy, well-balanced diet.
If you’re not sure where to start, Dave’s Pet Food again, is your one stop shop.
Dave makes an awesome line of Naturally Healthy pet foods (canned & dry) that’re formulated with the health of your pet in mind.
Available for both dogs, and cats, you can click here to visit the site and shop all products.
4. Spruce up the potty
Flushing your system is only appealing if you have a good place to do it, right?
By sprucing up your cat’s potty place, and allowing them to feel safe and secure where they go - you’re encouraging them to go (which in turn, allows them to associate bathroom breaks with pleasant experiences.. And vice versa).
Cats are among some of the smartest creatures in the world, so it’s no surprise they value protection and cleanliness, and have an incredible ability to recall their experiences.
By providing a safe and relaxing space for your cat to potty, they might just eat, drink, and use the bathroom more frequently.
Now, it doesn’t need to look like the Taj Mahal, but changing the litter and keeping it fresh may be all that it takes, to get them to go.
Take it one day at a time
It’s important to remember one thing… and that is that nothing - and we mean nothing - is set in stone.
Things change, miracles happen, and you just can’t predict one moment to the next.
So enjoy your pets, care for them as much, and as well as you can, and know that your feline friend will appreciate each and every effort you make, to help improve their life.