How do you prolong a cat’s life with kidney failure?

It may be possible to prolong the life of a cat with chronic kidney disease (CKD) by modifying their diet. You don’t have to think too hard about it because the top manufacturers produce diets for these cats. They are modified in protein, phosphorus, sodium and lipid content.

CKD and hyperthyroidism
CKD and hyperthyroidism go hand-in-hand in domestic cats. Image: in public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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Restricting phosphorus can slow the progression of kidney disease. The UK technical manager for Purina, Ellie Groves, said that reducing the amount of phosphorus in a cat’s diet reduces the “morphological damage to the kidneys and is thought to be the most important influencer of survival in cats with CKD”.

Studies have confirmed that a “renal diet” is superior to an ordinary “adult maintenance diet” in “minimising uraemic episodes and renal related deaths in cats at stage II or stage III CKD”. “Uraemic episodes” are those during which there is a buildup of toxins in the blood because the kidneys stop filtering toxins out of the urine. It is a sign of end stage renal disease.

Studies have found that maintaining plasma phosphorus concentrations to a lower level improves survival time. “Plasma” is the colourless fluid part of blood.

What does dilute urine mean in cats?
What does dilute urine mean in cats? It means kidney failure. Click on the image for a concise explanation.

A cat suffering from CKD may like tuna. My research indicates that tuna has a higher amount of phosphorus than plant-based foods. That doesn’t tell me whether tuna fish has a high level of phosphorus! However, my research indicates that a cat with CKD should not be fed tuna out of a can.

In respect of humans and cats, a low-phosphorus diet is useful in managing kidney disease and prolonging life. In humans with CKD natural foods are better than processed foods with added phosphorus because the body absorbs less of the phosphorus from natural foods.

There is a wide range of commercially prepared prescription diets for cat suffering from CKD including Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support E, Hill’s Prescription Diet K/D Kidney Care, Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet Kidney and Mobility Support for Cats. I would expect these commercially prepared diets to be low in phosphorus. For example, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NF Kidney Function Early Care Formula is said to be “designed for cats in the early stages of renal disease. It provides moderate protein with reduced phosphorus”.

RELATED: Why is chronic kidney disease (CKD) so common in domestic cats?

A low phosphorus diet helps cats with CKD because their kidneys don’t work well and they develop a high phosphorus level in their blood which puts them at greater risk of heart disease, weak bones, joint pain and even death.

VCA Hospitals recommend that the phosphorus range on a dry matter basis for cats with CKD is 0.3-0.6%.

Cornell University suggests that there are studies confirming that “therapeutic diets that are restricted in protein, phosphorus and sodium content and high in water-soluble vitamins, fibre and antioxidant concentrations may prolong life and improve quality of life in cats with CKD”.

They use the word ‘may’ and therefore there are no certainties. But clearly specialist diets are likely to prolong the life of CKD cats.

Do cats with CKD feel pain? I wrote about this a couple of years ago and the answer in my view is yes. NSAIDs can be used to ease the pain but you’ll need to advice of a good veterinarian. Metacam 0.5mg/ml Oral Suspension is used to relieve inflammation and pain in cats. In my view and based on personal experience this drug should be used with great caution as it might cause kidney damage, ironically, if it is used to ease pain in a CKD cat.

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Below are some more articles on CKD in cats.

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