Since the pet food recall introduced feline kidney failure into our household, friends with cats recently diagnosed with Chronic Renal Disease (CRD, or CRF for Chronic Renal Failure) have asked for suggestions. Iâ€™m offering some favorite shortcuts to anyone struggling to help a pet with CRF, and I hope CRF veterans will add even more tips and resources in the comments.
Internet searches may show one personâ€™s favorite treatment included in someone elseâ€™s warning. This seems particularly true with regard to some pre-mixed herbal treatments labeled â€œkidneyâ€ this or that. I am not an expert, so I took warnings about certain herbal ingredients as harsh, quite seriously. We all want a quick fix, and maybe some of these treatments have worked for you; Iâ€™m just recommending using the Internet or other resources to generate a second opinion for any ingredients.
Of course, please discuss any treatments with your veterinarian.
The CRF sites I visited most often were:
â€¢ Feline CRF Information Center
â€¢ Holisticat including this article (Holisticat founder Sandy Arora also released a book, Whole Health for Happy Cats, in 2006 )
â€¢ Tanyaâ€™s Feline CRF Information Centre, a UK site
Subcutaneous fluids seem to enter all treatment regimens eventually. Your vet can administer them, or you can give these at home. Do not feel like a failure if you cannot do this, depending on the squirminess of your cat or your own squeamishness.
My vet recommended setting my cat, Kisses, on something like a washing machine since elevation makes the cat more likely to be still and puts her in your reach, and I found a TV tray worked best for this purpose. I kept the IV bag hanging from a hook on the back of a bedroom door. When it was time for her fluids, I could take her into the room, shut the door and move the TV tray into the corner next to the door. When I placed her on the TV tray and stood next to it, she was boxed in on three sides. Kisses preferred to face the open side, lying down during the injection. Some resources recommend gently warming the fluids for the catâ€™s comfort.
I enjoyed Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkinsâ€™ recently released book, Your Catâ€¦ Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life. In her chapter on kidney disease, she discusses more than the controversy over low-protein diets; Hodgkins introduces readers to her use of benazepril (an ACE inhibitor) to treat CRD patients. Read her book for other ideas, such as low-dose calcitriol supplementation for some patients.
Hodgkins and others mention cooked egg white can dilute the phosphorus in a meal. (Although Iâ€™ve seen mixed opinions on low protein vs. moderate protein, limiting phosphorus intake appears universally accepted.) I did this late in my catâ€™s illness, and I found she was excited to eat for a few minutes and seemed to keep it down.
Do not hesitate to explore cooking for your pet. Youâ€™ve learned how to meet the dietary demands of a human animal, so why not a petâ€™s? This is not a blanket endorsement of all table foods â€“- some items such as onion powder can harm cats. You can find feline nutrition information including â€œdos and donâ€™tsâ€ online or in books.
Here are a few books with specific kidney recipes.
â€¢ The New Natural Cat by Anitra Frazier
â€¢ Dr. Pitcairnâ€™s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats
â€¢ Home Prepared Dog and Cat Diets, the Healthful Alternative by Donald Strombeck, DVM
Not all cats accept home-prepared meals; some accept them only part of the time. This article from the Feline CRF Information Center mentions some commercial diets; most manufacturers can be found on the Pet Food List.
You can e-mail specific companies to ask about phosphorus content and other ingredients, and Ohio State Universityâ€™s College of Veterinary Medicine offers an online resource which displays phosphorus, calcium and other ratios within â€œprescriptionâ€ brands for comparison. (Click Diet Search, select a brand or brands, and check Reduced phosphorus/protein. And again, not everyone agrees regarding low vs. moderate protein.)
Hamiltonâ€™s book goes beyond homeopathic treatments, while Schwartz covers acupressure points and other aspects of Eastern medicine. Her thoroughness makes the book a bit complex but potentially rewarding.
Several resources mention Vitamin C and other supplements. Recommendations on which form (or brand) of supplement vary; try some of the resources above or The Veterinarianâ€™s Guide to Natural Remedies for Cats, a book edited by Martin Zucker. Anemia hit Kisses really fast, not long after a decent blood test. I thought I would notice pale gums when this condition hit, but I did not. At that point, we started her on a liquid Vitamin B/Iron supplement, but I wonder now if we could have tried that earlier. Talk to your vet.
I remain curious about â€œglandularâ€ supplementation mentioned by Bob Goldstein in The Goldsteinsâ€™ Wellness and Longevity Program for Dogs and Cats, as well as his brother Marty Goldstein in The Nature of Animal Healing. (From what I understand, glandulars contain materials from other animals which may function as â€œdecoysâ€ for a petâ€™s immune system to stop attacking an already affected organ.)
As her illness progressed, my cat began grooming frequently, a sign of stress. Frazierâ€™s book mentions an interesting concept: kidney patients recycle their own wastes during this grooming process, licking dander back into their systems to be digested. Kisses hated baths, so Iâ€™m not sure whether I would have bathed her with a castile soap as suggested in the book, or tried using finer brushes to catch and remove more of the dander.
After Kisses was gone, I flinched every time I read about kidney disease, worried a new idea or treatment would plunge me into what-ifs. But with so many treatment options, each person must choose a particular path or method, and make adjustments when needed â€“- in short, do the best you can. A little internal kindness for the caregiver is important. If we are depleted, how can we have the strength needed to help our pets?
Best wishes to those currently battling a petâ€™s kidney issue or other health-related demons. You are not alone.
Photo: Candace Schilling