Kidney Disease cat food is one of the most hit pages on Floppycats, so I thought it was important to reach out to Dr. Neely of Ask the Cat Doctor and learn more about the causes of kidney disease in cats. Thank you to Dr. Neely for taking the time to teach us more.
If you missed Dr. Neely’s first interview with us – you can check it out here: Interview with Dr. Shelby Neely of Ask The Cat Doctor
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What causes kidney disease in cats?
There are a number of things that can cause kidney disease in cats, including…
- genetic disorders
- bacterial infections
- urinary obstructions (especially in male cats)
- other underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension
- severe gingivitis and periodontal disease
…and more! It should also be noted that aging can bring about a decline in kidney function, with or without any other conditions contributing to it.
What are some of the warning signs?
At the beginning, there are often no signs pointing toward kidney disease until a substantial portion of the kidneys are destroyed. Once kidney damage reaches a certain threshold, the most common signs are increased thirst and urination. Depending on the stage of kidney disease, cats can also present with weight loss, decreased appetite, vomiting, constipation, and lethargy.
Are there ways to avoid kidney disease in cats?
Kidney disease is not always preventable, since the kidneys will begin to decline with age, but there are many things you can do to try to prevent premature loss of kidney function. First and foremost, you should keep all chemicals and toxins such as antifreeze, Easter Lilies, and common household medications like Tylenol and Advil away from your cat. These are only examples. The list of things that could damage your cat’s kidneys is long. Basically, if you “baby-proof” your home just as you would for a human toddler, you will be taking great strides in protecting your cat.
Also, if you never give your cat any medication, over the counter or prescription, without checking with your vet, many cases of toxic kidney damage can be avoided.
You should become familiar with a list of plants and household chemicals that can be toxic to your cat. You can find many such lists on the internet.
Keeping your cat indoors also helps to prevent exposure to most traumas, toxins, and viruses that can cause kidney damage.
Aside from these “external” sources of kidney damage, there are many things that happen internally that cause the kidneys to begin to decline. Increasing your cat’s water intake by feeding only canned food and offering drinking fountains to encourage your cat to drink will help provide enough moisture for your cat’s kidneys to function at their optimum levels. Providing good nutrition, which means feeding the appropriate high protein, low carbohydrate diet, helps keep your cat healthy longer. And if you keep your cat’s litter box clean so he isn’t tempted to “hold it,” and so that bad bacteria don’t build up in the litter box, bladder and kidney infections and stones are less likely to develop.
All cats should go for regular vet checkups and receive regular dental cleanings as recommended by your veterinarian. Bad bacteria in the mouth can travel through the bloodstream to many organs in the body, including the kidneys, and lead to serious infections.
Your cat’s blood pressure should also be monitored by your veterinarian. High blood pressure is very bad for your cat’s kidneys. Early detection is the key to slowing the progression of kidney disease!
What kinds of kidney disease are there?
The two main classifications of kidney failure in cats are chronic and acute. Kidney disease is also categorized according to what part of the kidney is affected and/or what is causing the damage. For instance, glomerulonephritis is a group of kidney diseases characterized by inflammation of the filtering units of the kidney called glomeruli, pyelonephritis is an infection of the kidneys, hydronephrosis is swelling of the kidneys due to backup of urine, amyloidosis is a hereditary condition that causes abnormal deposits of protein in the kidneys, and tubulonephrosis, and tubulointerstitial nephritis are diseases of the tubules of the kidneys (not the glomerli or blood vessels). Some of these conditions are chronic, while others are acute.
Acute kidney disease can have a much more favorable outcome, as it often comes on suddenly, and if caught very quickly, there can be hope of treating it, reversing the damage to the kidneys, and/or preventing any further damage. If acute kidney disease is not caught quickly, the damage can become chronic. In chronic kidney disease, it is too late to reverse damage, but more importantly, it can become impossible to halt further deterioration of the kidneys.
Chronic kidney disease often brings a number of additional health concerns, including anemia, low potassium, high phosphorous, muscle wasting, and weight loss. While cats can still be maintained, with proper treatment, for years, chronic kidney disease is not reversible or curable.
Certain causes of chronic or acute kidney disease can be fatal, especially toxic ones like antifreeze poisoning and viruses like FIP, while others can be treatable, extending life for years. Kidney disease, depending on the cause, doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Many cats are diagnosed with kidney disease and go on to live many more years, but again, early diagnosis and treatment is the key.
What does kidney disease mean? Can you explain why the kidneys are important in kitties?
Kidney disease can refer to any number of adverse conditions that are affecting the kidneys, from simple infections that can be treated and completely cured to more chronic conditions that are progressive to even fatal conditions like cancer. Kidney disease has unfortunately become a catch-all phrase, and the term “kidney disease” in and of itself doesn’t tell you much at all. Ultimately, kidney disease is now a broad term that is used any time the kidneys are not functioning properly.
Without the kidneys, one cannot live. Kidneys are responsible for key functions in the body, including filtering toxins and wastes from the blood, maintaining appropriate water balance and hydration levels, controlling electrolyte levels (including sodium, potassium, and phosphorous), and producing urine. Without the kidneys, wastes build up in the blood stream and cause critical damage to other organs and bodily functions.
What kind of food is good for a cat with kidney disease?
There is some controversy among veterinarians as to whether or not restricted protein diets help cats with kidney disease. Most veterinarians believe it is beneficial, but even then, there is controversy about how much lower or how restricted the protein intake should be. But despite this protein controversy, most vets feel that feeding canned food only is beneficial for cats with kidney disease due to the higher moisture content. Again, regardless of what your veterinarian has advised regarding diet, increasing water intake by using a water fountain and providing more fresh water can help the kidneys.
In my experience, I do believe that lowering the protein levels in the food for cats with kidney disease helps. That said, I do not necessarily believe that the protein restriction needs to be to the extent of prescription diets sold by many veterinarians. Where prescription diets are concerned, these are often needed for cats with certain secondary problems associated with kidney disease, including those with lower phosphorous levels, lower sodium, and added potassium.
What are some holistic things that you can do to help with kidney disease?
Again, I am not a holistic veterinarian, so I do not feel comfortable commenting on any holistic or homeopathic remedies that are on the market. That said, though, there are many more “natural” things that a cat with kidney disease often needs and will benefit from trying. There are supplements that some cats with chronic kidney disease will need, including added potassium and vitamins with iron, but one should consult with his or her veterinarian for proper dosing.
A huge factor in treating chronic kidney disease is to increase fluid intake, again, by offering water fountains and fresh water more often. And, although it is not necessarily a “holistic” treatment, subcutaneous fluids can extend a cat’s life by months to even years.
Are kidney transplants available for cats? How do you go about doing that?
Kidney transplants are available for cats, and owners considering this possibility should talk to their vet about arranging a consultation. This procedure is not done at your regular veterinarian’s office. Most often, veterinary universities and their associated teaching hospitals do kidney transplants for cats. After finding a facility that does this procedure, you will go for a consultation to determine if your cat is a good candidate, which is often based on the underlying disease or cause of the renal failure, the current health status of your cat, and the severity of the kidney disease.
Some readers have mentioned that Azodyl has helped their kitty – your thoughts on Azodyl for kidney disease?
I personally haven’t tried or used Azodyl for my own cats or my patients, so I can’t comment on it. This is more of a holistic approach for cats. This isn’t to say I don’t support trying more natural or homeopathic support for kidney health, but where this particular product is concerned; I can’t really provide a comment. What I can suggest to all readers is that, if your cat has been diagnosed with kidney disease, you consult your veterinarian about the types of treatment options available and discuss whether a supplement like Azodyl or any other natural remedies are worth trying. Depending on the underlying cause, any given remedy may or may not be a good one for your particular cat.