Kidney failure in cats is a frightening diagnosis to us cat parents. It’s one of the most common causes of death in our feline friends and it’s a very unpredictable disease. By the time we’re able to see the symptoms, there’s usually no turning back. Renal Failure, or kidney failure, is most common among older cats, though it’s worth noting that younger cats are not entirely immune from this diagnosis.
The disease starts when the kidney’s filtering system begins to break down, allowing toxins to build up and begin circulating throughout the bloodstream. If left untreated, these toxins will begin to affect other organs and the symptoms will increase to lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, etc. These symptoms are more difficult to control with medical treatments than they are in humans. Many vets will prescribe fluids, ‘prescription diets’ and tell you to try and keep your cat as comfortable as possible. To say that the current treatments available are less than hopeful, is an understatement. So let’s learn a little more about this diagnosis and what we can do as cat parents to avoid or improve this condition.
Kidney failure falls into two categories: Acute and chronic. Acute kidney failure comes on quickly and is usually due to your cat ingesting toxins (i.e. pesticides, cleaning fluids, human medications), having an infection, or some other type of severe shock to the system. If diagnosed and treated quickly, this acute condition can sometimes be reversed.
Chronic renal failure is accumulated over time and is usually the more ‘deadly’ of kidney diseases. Though the cause technically remains unknown, studies have given us some important insights that point to commonalities that seem to impact this diagnosis.
Distemper Vaccines. Recent studies have shown a link between distemper vaccinations and chronic renal failure. I am completely inclined to agree with the findings of this study. Throughout my 10 years in pet nutrition, I’ve encountered numerous issues caused by over-vaccinations and re-occurring vaccines. The toll these chemicals take on our cats’ bodies is outrageous to me. Because of this, I always recommend titer testing first.
Dry Food Diets. We stress the importance of a wet food diet for so many reasons…and this is certainly one of them. Cats need a significant amount of fluid in their diet. In the wild, they kill and eat their prey, which consists of 75%-85% water. Cats who are only fed dry food diets are therefore lacking the optimal amount of moisture their bodies need. This lack of water will put considerable stress on their kidneys throughout the course of their life – and subsequently, can lead to kidney failure. Be sure that your cat is getting a moist and balanced diet to avoid the cumulative damage of a kibble only diet.
For those of you who are already dealing with kidney failure in cats, be comforted that there are some helpful things we can do to improve our little one’s quality (and likely longevity) of life. While this disease cannot yet be reversed, the right supplements can assist their overall health and thus, slow the progress of renal failure. Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants are top on that list. These supplements can help to fight the toxins that build up in the kidneys and affect the bloodstream. In addition, if your cat is a kibble addict (like one of ours) it’s important to make sure a high-quality wet food is part of their daily diet. This added moisture will help reduce the work-load on the kidneys and provide the much needed fluid for a healthier function of the whole digestive system.
In conclusion, we recommend taking a proactive approach to cat health. Make sure that you know what chemicals are going into their little bodies and how those chemical can (and will) affect them. Be aware of the amount of moisture in their diets, and supplement their food with toxin-fighting, all natural supplements to help avoid and/or improve kidney disease in cats.