The Right Diet for Cats with Kidney Disease - The Conscious Cat
The ideal amount of protein to feed dogs and cats with kidney disease is a hotly debated topic and is controversial. Prescription kidney diets are formulated with 13-18% protein (on a dry matter basis) for dogs and 25-32% protein (on a dry matter basis) for cats. While evidence suggests restricting protein in the more advanced stages of kidney disease helps pets feel better, there is nothing to support protein restriction in early cases. In fact, protein restriction may lead to protein malnourishment and loss of muscle mass in pets with early kidney disease. This is especially common in cats who have much higher protein requirements than dogs.
Cats with CKD vary in weight, degree of muscle loss, blood pressure, and also in protein, phosphorous, potassium and pH/acid levels. These and other nutrients are modified in veterinary renal diets, sold through veterinarians. Although individual products vary, they generally contain less protein, phosphorous and sodium — but also alkalizing agents and more potassium than adult maintenance foods. Some formulations are marketed for different stages of kidney disease.
Feline "renal diets" are specifically formulated for the purpose of clinical management of cats with chronic kidney disease (CKD). These diets include commercial products and diets specifically designed for cats with CKD formulated by boarded veterinary nutritionists. "Renal diets" have been considered the "gold standard" therapy for managing cats with CKD for many decades. Based on evidence from clinical studies, the IRIS Board suggests renal diets be considered for cats with IRIS CKD Stage 2 and recommend feeding renal diets to cats with IRIS CKD Stages 3 and 4.There are several different prescription diets available from your veterinarian that are described as being feline kidney diets. DO NOT feed your cat one of these diets in the dry form. In fact, do not feed your cat dry food period. Dry food has very little moisture in it. Canned food has much more and every cat with kidney disease needs to consume more water. Eating dry food over the course of a cat’s lifetime may indeed be one of the causative factors in the development of chronic kidney disease in so many cats.Chronic renal (kidney) failure is an irreversible loss of all of the kidney's functions. Although commonly considered an illness of older dogs and cats, it can occur in animals of all ages. Chronic renal failure is not reversible and may have been present in your pet for months to years before the time of diagnosis. Although there is no cure for this disease, it can be successfully managed, and nutritional therapy is an important part of that treatment. Recent studies in dogs and cats have shown both a reduction in the complications associated with renal failure, and an increase in life expectancy by feeding diets designed to manage renal disease. The goals of nutritional management are to meet the patient's nutrient and energy requirements, as well as to alleviate the clinical signs and to slow the progression of the disease. Specific recommendations regarding dietary therapy will vary from patient to patient and need to be based on clinical and laboratory findings. Chronic renal disease is progressive and therefore repeated assessment and subsequent changes in your pet's care and diet may be necessary to successfully manage this process.Acid-Base Balance
Acid-base abnormalities are commonly seen in dogs and cats with renal failure because it is the kidney's job to excrete hydrogen ions and retain bicarbonate ions in order to maintain blood pH within the normal range. When the kidneys begin to fail, hydrogen ions are retained and bicarbonate ions are not reabsorbed, leading to a state called metabolic acidosis. Metabolic acidosis affects the entire body and enhances the clinical signs of renal disease, making your animal feel ill. In an effort to counter this disturbance, the body will mobilize its own resources from muscle and bone. This initially palliates the problem, but over the long-term can lead to the further decline in your animal's health. Dietary protein restriction reduces the production of protein-derived acid precursors which helps to some extent. In addition, renal failure diets have increased amounts of alkalinizing agents such as potassium citrate, sodium bicarbonate or calcium carbonate to further combat this problem.