As a cat ages, it is more susceptible to kidney disease. Chronic renal failure (CRF) is more common in cats over 15 years old. Since the disease is life threatening, early detection can stabilize the condition and provide for a good quality of life.
If the animal is experiencing weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, loss of appetite, vomiting, difficulty in urinating or a dull coat, the disease could be a cause of the problem. Other diseases such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes causing similar symptoms can mask this condition. A veterinarian can determine if it is present. If left untreated, the kidneys will completely shut down leading to death.
Once CRF is diagnosed, there is no cure but life can be extended with proper treatment. It is diagnosed by a blood panel measuring levels of critical components. A low phosphorus diet can help prevent or retard it. The diet should also consist of low protein content, low sodium content and high potassium content. The diet should not restrict essential nutrients to maintain the animal’s health.
The low phosphorus content decreases kidney calcification called nephrocalcinosis. It is the deposit of calcium salts in the kidneys. When functioning nephrons drop below 25%, kidney failure occurs. Toxins build up in the blood and the kidneys are not able to filter the blood to eliminate the toxins. The kidneys besides eliminating waste in the blood, regulate the body’s acidity, electrolyte levels, water balance, hormone production and vitamin D.
CRF can be treated by adding additional fluids to food or under the skin (SQ fluids), diet, medications (Epogen shots or oral medication) and appetite stimulants. Appetite stimulants are important because a poor appetite is a result of the disease. Adding tuna juice or liquid from canned food can help the feeding process. In some cases, force feeding with a syringe may be the only alternative. For these options to work, dehydration must not be present. This is also beneficial to an older healthy cat because it could prevent the disease. Hemodialysis and kidney transplants are rare and expensive.
The condition can cause an emotional experience for an owner. The pet will have it’s good days and bad days. An owner must try to relax and not stress out. The pet will sense the owner’s stress and this can have an effect on it’s health. Like any serious condition, the life expectancy is unknown. Caring for and enjoying the cat is the best way to cope with the problem.
There are many foods on the market that are tailored to be used for CRF. Royal Canin and Wellness Core are two brands that offer a low phosphor food. Consult a veterinarian to determine what is best treatment.