There are several diet-related diseases that are common in cats (and dogs). One of the most notorious is CKD. Chronic Kidney Disease, also known as chronic renal disease or chronic renal failure. Because of the tremendous capacity of the kidneys to compensate for loss of tissue, the kidneys can deteriorate to a point they operate at 30%-40% of capacity while producing very few or no symptoms. Unfortunately once the symptoms appear there is a gradual decline in function that eventually becomes fatal. There are things you can do to slow or manage this process, which is what is explored here.
The second leading cause of death for cats, CKD, has several causes with the largest and most preventable being dry food, otherwise known as kibble. Because cats evolved in dry regions, healthy cats drink little or no water by nature. Kitties are designed to meet most or all of their body’s water requirements through their diet not from a water bowl.
Dry food is nearly void of water, containing only about 10%. Compare that to raw food, which is around 75% water, which is typical for a cat’s natural diet. Cats are forced to drink water even though it’s not natural for them, when they can’t get enough water from their food. Their evolutionary origins leave them with a low thirst drive, rarely drinking enough even when they do drink. That leaves them in a constant state of mild dehydration which is very difficult on the kidneys causing a slow deterioration over time.
Once a cat is diagnosed with chronic kidney disease your vet may recommend a “prescription renal diet,” which is probably a kibble. Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM, a feline-only practitioner and cat nutrition expert, writes,
“I must say that I find it truly amazing when I hear about the very large numbers of cats receiving subcutaneous fluids while being maintained on a diet of dry food. This is an extremely illogical and unhealthy practice and every attempt should be made to get these cats on a diet that contains a higher moisture content.”https://catinfo.org/
Once CKD has been diagnosed the goal is to avoid further damage and assist the remaining function. This can be done through a herbal and nutritional approach, reducing or eliminating the toxic load on the kidneys and increasing the amount of moisture in the diet.
Cats can grow addicted to a low-quality highly processed diet (kibble and canned food) and refuse to eat anything else. If your CKD cat is hooked on a poor-quality food it may indeed be necessary to reduce the amount of the low-quality toxic protein in the diet. There are many ways to transition your cat off of a food, some tips are here.
Anything that is not usable by the body should be considered toxic and eliminated from the diet. The kidneys are filters afterall. So putting things the body doesn’t use into your kitty will only increase the load on already laboring kidneys, giving them more to filter out. You should actively eliminate preservatives, coloring agents, steroids/hormones, insecticides, and the like from your cat’s diet. This can be done easily with human-grade food.
Once that’s done, you’ll want reduce the load of digestive waste on the kidneys. The quality of protein in most dry and wet pet foods is very poor. It’s rendered, feed-grade protein, which is harder for cats to digest and process (read more on that here), putting those toxins into your cat’s blood, creating more work for over-taxed kidneys.
Speaking of protein, your vet may have suggested that you reduce the amount of protein in your cat’s diet. Protein reduction has little to do with the progression of kidney disease. In fact reducing the protein level in the diet may reduce the effectiveness of the kidneys. This is because the amount of blood filtered through the kidneys is tied to protein in the diet, and reducing the protein reduces the amount of filtering, thus decreasing the excretion of toxins**.
More important than the total amount of protein is the quality of the protein. When proteins are digested you’ll see urea (BUN) and creatine produced as by-products, which can show in blood work as elevated levels (dehydration further elevates these levels so be sure your cat has fasted and is well hydrated before getting blood work so you have an accurate measure). High quality protein breaks down completely with few byproducts, keeping the BUN and creatine low.
The protein-fat ratio is very important. The whole caloric intake cannot be just protein. When too high of a protein ratio is used the process the body uses to convert protein to energy calories creates lots of waste. Without the right amount of quality fat:protein there will be high amounts of toxins produced, increasing the load on the kidneys.
Herbal solutions can help nourish the body and kidneys more delicately than prescription medications. One solution is based on how the kidneys operate. The kidneys depend on bicarbonate ions. So a little baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in the food may help replenish the ions lost from excessive urine flow.
Calcium is important because the serum phosphorous level tends to be high and calcium binds to some of the phosphorus. Elevated phosphorus can damage the kidneys, so you want to keep phosphorus low. Adding calcium decreases the phosphorus levels. If you’re making your own diet, you should always be sure it has adequate calcium, but not too much and not from bone (bone contains phosphorous, what you’re trying to reduce). Consider calcium carbonate instead (eggshell calcium). Boron has also been shown to help lower blood phosphorus levels, which can be added to the food.
The last thing you can do is look at your cat’s environment. Avoid smoking around your CKD kitty, along with serving chlorinated water, keep stress low, avoid excessive heat, car fumes, and other similar toxins.
Fetching Foods has experience designing life-changing nutritional programs, including ones for CKD kitties. Our food is high-end, human-grade, and designed individually for your kitty, matching her taste, texture, and nutritional needs. Because no two cats are alike, it’s not an off-the-shelf solution, but fully customized with optimized ratios, nutrients, and supplements for your cat’s specifics. Or you can consider the Just Cat product line, made with eggshell calcium, low phosphorus, and high-moisture human-grade ingredients. Contact us about details www.fetchingfoods.com/contact or visit shop.fetchingfoods.com.