Kidney problems are common in both cats and dogs, especially as they get older. With the proper care, however, your kitty can live comfortably for months or even years.
The most common sign of renal failure is increased water consumption and urination. Dilute urine, or urine that lacks color or odor, is also a telltale sign of a kidney problem. Further symptoms are loss of appetite, weight loss, and even discolored teeth. The animal’s breath may have a chemical odor, he may have sores in his mouth or light-colored gums, which are an indicator of anemia, and even episodes of vomiting and diarrhea. If he is repeatedly licking his nose, chances are he is nauseated, which is another possible indicator of kidney disease, along with muscle weakness and exercise intolerance. Any of these symptoms warrant a visit to the vet.
Complete blood work, a urinalysis, and a urine culture are important, because only these tests will let you know if you are dealing with an acute or short-term kidney problem, or a chronic, ongoing one. Once a diagnosis has been made and a treatment plan put in place, it is important to feed your animal a diet that will help support his kidney function.
First, make sure that fresh filtered or spring water is always available, and encourage your animal to drink at regular intervals. Water consumption is very important, because keeping the kidneys and bladder flushed helps prevent the formation of crystals and stones. Add extra broth to your animal’s daily meals.
Feeding the kidney-compromised cat
One question that’s often asked when it comes to cats and kidney disease, is should you restrict your cat’s protein? Some studies have demonstrated that decreasing protein consumption has no effect on chronic renal disease; further research suggests it may even cause further damage to your cat’s kidneys and other major organs. As well, because cats are picky eaters at the best of times, yours may simply walk away from a restrictive diet, so the bottom line is to feed him whatever he likes, and not overly concern yourself with the percentage of protein.
It is very important, though, to ensure your cat is fed a moisture-rich diet. Commercial dry foods simply can’t adequately meet the needs of a cat with chronic renal failure. A homemade diet is your best line of defense, along with special supplementation recommended by a holistic vet to further support kidney function.
In Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets: The Healthful Alternative, author Dr. Donald R. Strombeck offers a variety of easy-to-follow recipes for cats with chronic renal failure. You can choose from a chicken and rice based diet, to beef and potato, or tuna, clams, and rice. It’s as simple as combining 3 ounces of tuna with ½ ounce of canned clams, ½ cup of cooked long grain rice, 1/8 teaspoon of salt substitute (potassium chloride), 1½ calcium carbonate tablets or 600 mg of calcium from ground egg shells, ¼ multiple vitamin-mineral tablet, and 1/10 of a B-complex vitamin-trace mineral tablet. Again, choose organic ingredients where possible.
Try to also include whole grains in your cat’s diet, as they provide a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Nutrients from vegetables like beets help cleanse the blood, while carrots aid in maintaining healthy fluid levels.
Recipes for kidney patients
Salmon Kitty Bits
1 can salmon or tuna
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 tablespoons organic catnip
1½ – 2 cups organic flour
Preheat your oven to 350°F and lightly grease a large cookie sheet. In a blender or food processor, combine ingredients until the mixture forms a ball. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board, and knead a few times. Place the ball of dough in the middle of the cookie sheet, and roll it out so it fills the sheet. Use your fingers to ensure the dough reaches all corners of the sheet. Score the dough with a sharp knife to make very small “kitty bits” that will be easy to break off once the dough has been baked and cooled. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven off and allow treats to cool completely before removing. Break into bits along the scored lines. If you want a softer treat for your cat, simply remove the treats from the oven as soon as the baking time is up. The bits should be stored in an airtight container or in a Zip-lock bag. They freeze very well.
Supplements for renal failure
Supplements that have a positive impact on both acute and chronic kidney problems include salmon oil, an Omega-3 essential fatty acid that’s helpful for fighting inflammation and supporting your pet’s immune system, and may even slow down the progression of renal failure. Vitamin E is the perfect partner to the fish oil supplement, but don’t use cod liver oil. Cranberry helps stop bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall, and aids in the prevention of further infections, while Vitamins B and C also work together to support kidney function.
Other supplements include Animals’ Apawthecary Tinkle Tonic, which is an anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, soothing, and tonifying combination made of wild crafted couchgrass, certified organic Echinacea purpurea root, dandelion, marshmallow, and horsetail. Tinkle Tonic is intended to soothe, lubricate, strengthen and protect urinary tract tissues in cats and dogs. Tasha’s Kidney Formula for cats combines medicinal herbs to support the kidneys, bladder, and urinary tract. It can be used as a soothing tonic for older cats, and is also used as an anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory supplement for feline urologic syndrome. Renafood by Standard Process is another supplement often recommended for its ability to help support kidney function.