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When your cat is diagnosed with kidney disease

Kayla lived nearly 7 years after being diagnosed with CRF.
Kayla lived nearly 7 years after being diagnosed with CRF.
photo by J. Ziskin

Chronic renal failure. Kidney failure. Renal disease. It is known by many names, but they all mean the same thing: kidney disease.

It is overwhelming to hear the diagnosis from your veterinarian and can be difficult to take in all the information being offered.

Because every cat is a unique individual, there isn't one set way to manage the disease. Understanding certain products and protocols will help you ask your vet the right questions.

Subcutaneous Fluids
Receiving subcutaneous (under the skin) fluids is an important element in the care of most cats with kidney disease. These fluids help the kidneys function, remove toxins from the body, keep the body hydrated, reduce or eliminate associated nausea and more. Recommended amounts and frequency vary greatly. Your vet can teach you how to administer sub-q fluids at home. If you are not comfortable doing so and do not wish to take your cat to the vet for the fluids, there are pet sitters that specialize in administering fluids and medications. You can make arrangements for them to come to your home as needed. To find qualified individuals, ask your vet's office for recommendations or visit Pet Sitters International.

Phosphorus Binders
Phosphorus is an important mineral for many of the body's processes. It helps maintain pH balance, transports oxygen to the body's tissues and is important for building teeth and bone. Kidneys are the major organ responsible for regulating serum phosphate levels. As kidney function declines, phosphorus is often retained in the blood. This can lead to secondary hyperthyroidism and the build up of phosphorus in the heart, lungs, joint and skin.

Some veterinarians now recommend phosphorus binders to help keep the mineral from building up in the blood. Here are two phosphorus binders that are often prescribed. Always consult with your veterinarian before adding any supplement to your cat's protocol.

Epakitin contains chitosan, a phosphate binder, which helps slow down the increase of phosphatemia in the kidneys. Chitosan also reduces urea, creatinine and calcium absorption, without affecting your cat's food consumption. As a result, Epakitin can safely and effectively decreases the kidney's workload, which supports normal renal function and helps relieve the effects of kidney disease. The powder is palatable, making this product more enticing to most cats than liquids or pills. It is also safe to use with other therapies.

Aluminum hydroxide works to lower phosphate levels in certain kidney conditions by binding phosphate in the gut so less is absorbed into the body. As a bonus, it is also used to treat the symptoms of too much stomach acid such as stomach upset, heartburn, and acid indigestion, which is common for many cats with kidney disease. Aluminum hydroxide is an antacid that works quickly to lower the acid in the stomach.

RenAvast
This is a fairly new supplement. It is a natural, amino acid combination that is being touted as a way to reverse kidney disease. There is very limited clinical data, however veterinarians have been using the product and have reported some success with some cats. RenAvast is available only through veterinarians.

Diet
There are many different views on what type of diet works best for cats with kidney disease. Some veterinarians still advise low protein diets, however there has been much research showing that it is the quality of the protein that matters most, not simply the amount. Many holistic vets now recommend raw food for cats with chronic renal failure.

Cats are obligate carnivores. They require a good deal of protein. When protein levels are restricted, there is an increased chance of malnutrition. Many body processes can suffer, leading to additional health problems.

Homemade diets are often quite beneficial for cats with kidney disease. Not only can you control the quality of the ingredients, you can adjust the diet as necessary. Another advantage is that the aromas from home prepared food can help entice a kitty with a low appetite.

It is important to work with (preferably) a holistic or integrative veterinarian or pet nutrition expert to formulate the right diet for your cat.

Complementary Medicine
Modalities such as acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, western herbs and homeopathy can be beneficial to cats with of kidney disease. Consider adding a holistic veterinarian to your cat's health care team. To locate a holistic vet near you, visit the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association.

By empowering yourself with information and options, you become an active partner in your cat's care. Stay positive. Cats with kidney disease can live well for many years.

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To contact Jodi directly, visit HolisticHealthyPets.net or email her at info@holistichealthypets.net.