Kidney failure, just as any other type of disease, is becoming more and more common in our pets. This is due to a number of factors. Not surprisingly to me, one reason is the diet which we are feeding and have fed to our companion animals over the course of their lives. By the way, as I always say, all comes as a courtesy of our commercial mass producing pet food makers. That is because they have absolutely no concern for our pets’ health. All they have on their mind are their own profits. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that and it’s a substantial part of doing business. But I do have a problem with the fact that it comes at the expense of our pets’ health.
Kidney disease is also known as Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) in cats or Canine Kidney Failure (CIN) in dogs. It is one of the more common problems seen in aging pets. While chronic renal failure is more common in cats, it is certainly a problem we see in dogs as well. Acute kidney failure is generally the result of poisoning or external toxins of some type. Chronic kidney failure is usually a slowly progressive disease that unfortunately often goes unnoticed for quite some time until it typically is too late.
The kidneys function is to filter out and excrete toxins from the body through the urine. One of the first indications of the illness is an increase in thirst and urination. A healthy kidney can concentrate toxins into a smaller amount of liquid to be urinated away. When the kidneys are damaged and become less able to concentrate the urine, more fluid is used by the body. As the kidneys become less efficient and the disease progresses, other signs of chronic renal failure such as such as weight loss, nausea, constipation, low energy or fatigue, and poor appetite start to show.
Like I mentioned earlier, unfortunately in most of the cases too late, most animals do not show signs of illness until about 70% - 75% of kidney function has been lost. In order to diagnose the illness and determine the extent of the disease your vet will perform a blood test and urine analysis.
One common treatment for most cats with chronic CRF is subcutaneous fluids. Your vet will generally train you to do this by yourself at home. It is generally not very painful to the cat and will most definitely extend their quality of life.
A low protein (though this is a controversial subject), low phosphorus and low sodium diet may be recommended for a pet with kidney disease. Some studies suggest that feeding a diet low in phosphorus may help slow the progression of kidney failure by reducing mineral deposits in the kidneys. Low protein diets generate fewer nitrogenous wastes. High levels of low protein food can cause nausea and vomiting. However, the diet for each cat or dog with kidney disease should be tailored to their own specific needs as dictated by the stage of the disease and the test results of the blood and urine analysis.
For many animals, a diet containing a high quality protein will be better than a low protein diet. A great option may be to feed a home made diet addressing the individual needs of the sick pet. Low protein diets, if not carefully managed, can lead to malnutrition. If a low protein diet is necessary, a canned formula designed for senior animals might be an option. A discussion with a holistically oriented vet may shed some light for you on this subject. Also, at our online store we just recently started a category for animals with “Specific Health Conditions”, in which this problem is also addressed with a specific diet plan.
Dry food is not a good option for animals with kidney problems, especially cats. Hydration is extremely important for animals with kidney disease. Cats, especially, tend to become chronically dehydrated on a diet of dry kibble. Inappropriate diet is thought to be one of the contributing factors to chronic renal failure.
Omega 3 fatty acids from marine fish oil have been shown to slow the progression of kidney disease in a clinical trial with dogs. The anti inflammatory action of the Omega 3's may reduce kidney inflammation. Vitamin E is often recommended along with the Omega 3 oils as they act synergistically. The dosage for Omega 3 fatty acids can generally be increased up to twice that recommended on the product label, but should be reduced if loose stools occur.
I also recommend B-complex and vitamin C to help replenish the vitamins lost due to the inability of the kidneys to recycle and retain these nutrients in the body properly. Some dogs and cats appear to have a better appetite and feel better when given B vitamins or an appropriate vitamin and mineral complex. Fortunately there are plenty of supplements available addressing this particular need. Additionally, potassium supplementation may be necessary in some cases.
Another option are herbs and nutriceuticals. Western or Chinese herbs (the melamine free ones) can be useful in the beginning stages of kidney disease. As the disease progresses, consultation with a holistically trained vet is recommended for proper use of appropriate herbal remedies.
By the way, I strongly recommend to always talk to your vet before starting your dog or cat on any new herb or supplement when dealing with kidney disease.
What else can you do? It is helpful to take steps to reduce stress for any animal with kidney disease. Quality of life is an important consideration when deciding how aggressively to treat any disease. For example. I have learned that flower essences can be helpful in supporting your companion emotionally and aiding in stress reduction.They are completely safe to use along with any conventional or alternative treatment for kidney disease. Acupuncture can be very helpful for animals with kidney disease. Regular acupuncture can help slow the progression of the disease, stimulate the kidneys and boost the overall vitality of the ill pet.
Some animals can live for many months or even years after a diagnosis of kidney disease. Cats seem to fair better than dogs in this way. Ultimately the decision maker in the treatment of your companion, but it is important to utilize your vet as a crucial advisor, possibly along with a holistic practitioner offering alternative treatments to compliment any conventional medications or treatments.
In conclusion, I hope this article is more being used as a source of information to prevent kidney disease rather than a resource to help curing and having to live with it. Remember, it nutrition is THE starting point for a healthy companion animal.
My Australian friend Brigitte Smith and her friend Dr. Larry Siegler inspired me to write today’s comment.