The Real Deal: Managing Kidney Disease

Chronic renal failure, if caught early, can be managed through careful attention to a cat's lifestyle.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM

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Administering fluid to cats with CRF corrects dehydration and encourages excessive urine production, which lowers the blood toxin levels. Fluid therapy corrects acid/base imbalances and restores normal phosphorus and potassium levels.  This is crucial, because low levels of phosphorus or high levels of potassium can accelerate progression of renal damage.

Cats with CRF are depleted of water-soluble vitamins because of excessive urination. Vitamins can be replaced through fluid therapy as well.

Nutrition is an essential part of the therapy, because many cats hospitalized with CRF have no appetite. During hospitalization, nutritional support can be achieved either through force-feeding, tube feeding or intravenous feeding, depending on the severity of the inappetence and degree of malnutrition.

Cats with failing kidneys produce excessive stomach acid, which causes nausea, vomiting and anorexia. Administration of famotidine, either intravenously or orally, is often beneficial. 

A major goal of therapy is to reduce the level of the toxins as much as possible. Toxin levels are measured every two to three days until a plateau is reached and the cat has improved clinically. A typical hospital stay lasts from three to six days. 

Owners of cats with CRF need to realize that hospital treatment does not return the kidneys to normal. It merely jump starts the ailing kidneys. A conscientious home maintenance program is necessary for the rest of the cats life. 

Treatment at Home
The cornerstone of home maintenance is the feeding of a restricted-protein diet. The benefits of dietary protein restriction in CRF cats are well documented. Several companies manufacture kidney failure diets that are restricted in protein, phosphorus and sodium and commonly prescribed for pets in renal failure.

Occasionally, blood levels of phosphorus will elevate despite an appropriate diet. If this happens, phosphate binders may be necessary to keep the levels in the normal range. Aluminum salts are usually effective in these cases.

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Reader Comments

janet    bethlehem, PA

7/16/2010 4:19:14 AM

good article, thank you

Hollis    BURBANK, CA

5/14/2009 1:02:26 PM


I'm desperately trying to email or even print out this entire article as my cat has renal failure and I can't do either. The only thing that prints is the first page.

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