If your cat has been diagnosed with early stages of chronic kidney disease, your vet may also have explained that, although there is no treatment for kidney disease, there are various things you can do to support the kidneys and slow the progression of the disease.
One of the important things when supporting your cat through this disease, is to ensure your cat has plenty of access to fresh water. Kidney disease causes your cat to become dehydrated so it’s vital that they have access to plenty of fresh water. Here are some tips on how to ensure you cat drinks well.
In addition to fresh water, you can help increase your cat’s water intake by feeding them mainly wet food – meaning tins or pouches. Cats have an amazing ability to get water from food so providing a food that is already higher in water content (in gravy or jelly for example) is a great way to increase their fluid intake.
Although wet food is ultimately the best option for a cat with chronic kidney disease, it also has some disadvantages. It can be a much more expensive option to feed them ONLY on wet food and it also can go off quickly when left out in a bowl. As most cats tend to graze on small portions of food throughout the day, feeding your cat dry food in addition to wet food would be a good compromise if your cat is a grazer. You can also add some water to the dry food to increase the water content, but only if your cat will eat it this way. We all know how fussy they can be!
Your vet may have discussed special kidney or renal foods (known as diets) with you already. This is a diet specially made to support your cat’s kidneys by containing lower amounts of phosphorus and salt (which can cause damage if high levels build up). They also support your cat’s natural ability to build lean muscle with a high level of essential amino acids. These special foods also have other benefits and, although they are more expensive, they have been proven to make a significant difference to the quality of life and, in many situations, life span of a large proportion of cats.
However, many cats are fussy eaters and when they are feeling unwell with kidney disease, their appetite can already be less than normal. To then attempt to feed them a new diet can be very challenging and may not be right for your cat. Only you know your cat well enough to decide whether you think they have it in them to try a new food. Some cats love the special kidney diets and their blood results have shown improvement in their kidney disease on the diets alone so it can be worth it. However, the most important thing to remember is that it’s by far more important at this stage to keep your cat eating. So if they don’t like the food and are refusing to eat it, please offer them their usual food.
More information about the kidney foods available can be found here as well as tips on how best to change your cat onto this food and how to get a fussy cat to eat.
Your vet may also recommend a phosphate binder, which is usually a powder that is mixed into your cat’s food. When kidneys don’t work properly, they don’t remove excess phosphorus from the blood and this can build up causing serious damage to other parts of the body including the bones. A phosphate binder can help to control the amount of phosphorus absorbed by the body. You should only give your cat a phosphate binder under direction of your vet.
Your vet may also prescribe a medication called Benazepril. This drug has been shown to increase kidney filtration and can also improve a cat’s appetite. Your vet may prescribe this if your cat has protein in their urine. This means your cat’s kidneys are filtering out a type of protein in their urine which should be retained by the body.
If your cat is at the point where they aren’t able to keep up with the fluid they are losing (urinating more out than they can drink in), your vet may recommend they are given fluids either intravenously (into the vein) or sub-cutaneously (under the skin) to correct their fluid balance. This may require a small stay in hospital and could become a regular treatment to help keep your cat stable.