Nutrition for Cats with CKD
Proper Nutrition is Vital for Cats with CKD
When it comes to taking care of a cat with CKD, it’s all about addressing underlying causes, treating symptoms and managing nutrition because there is no cure. With treatment and careful management, cats with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) can have a good quality of life.
This article is about the nutritional needs of cats with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and a discussion of:
- Foods that can be beneficial to cats with CKD
- Foods that can be aggravating to cats with CKD
One of the essential functions of the kidneys is to filter the body’s waste. The body makes waste that it cannot use and adds it to blood for transport to the kidney. The kidney then filters the waste out of the blood and into urine for excretion. With CKD the system has difficulty eliminating waste which usually results in:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
MANAGEMENT OF COMMON CKD SYMPTOMS TO MINIMIZE FURTHER KIDNEY DAMAGE
Although every cat is different, cats with CKD generally have a good quality of life, if these common symptoms are managed:
- Nausea: Because waste products build up in the blood of cats with CKD, they may feel nauseous. Reduce blood urea nitrogenand phosphorus in the diet with low protein foods like egg whites, chicken and tuna. Avoid foods like shrimp.
- Decreased Appetite: Most cats don’t want to eat when they feel nauseous. Veterinarian recommended kidney diets smell good to cats and are high in calories, which means appetite may improve.
- Weight Loss: Because of diminished food intake cats with CKD often lose both muscle and fat. High calorie diets help when cats don’t want to eat. Low-phosphorus proteins support muscle mass.
- Dehydration: Diseased kidneys have difficulty concentrating urine and lose a lot of water. Try canned food, which has more water, or adding low-sodium broth or tuna juice to their water bowl.
Appropriate quantities of the right foods can help reduce symptoms and promote the health of cats with CKD, making them feel better and live longer.
Vet-approved cat foods with the following characteristics are often recommended:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Essential nutrients that can help prevent/manage disease
- More Potassium: A mineral and an electrolyte to help combat potassium deficiency
- More Antioxidants: E.g. vitamin C or E that removes potentially damaging oxidizing agents
Kidney support diets should provide the following:
- Moderate amounts of high-quality, easy-to-digest proteins
- Low in phosphorus to limit additional kidney damage
- Low Sodium helps address sodium retention and/or possible high blood pressure
- Added fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) to protect against inflammation
- Enriched in natural antioxidants such as vitamins C and E
Getting rid of the waste products of protein metabolism is hard work, especially for kidneys that have lost some of their function. However, cats with CKD still require protein, but less than healthy cats and it’s important that this reduced amount of protein is of a high quality. The body needs some protein to function properly and to maintain a healthy weight. Calories missing from reduced protein need to be made up elsewhere.
Taste, smell and texture provide appeal
It’s very important that cats, especially those with CKD, eat enough. So, to encourage a healthy appetite, you need to choose foods that smell and taste as good as possible. Texture can also play a role in general appeal.
Excessive quantities of the wrong foods can aggravate or increase symptoms of CKD which can be detrimental for health, reducing quality of life and lifespan of cats with CKD.
Foods that are dry can increase dehydration. Canned foods that have a high-water content can help prevent dehydration.
Foods with hard-to-digest poor quality proteins produce more urea and phosphorous that then need to be eliminated causing the diseased kidneys to work even harder. Choose foods made from moderate amounts of high-quality protein.
Vitamins, Fats and pH Levels
Depending on your cat’s condition and test results, your veterinarian may look at other factors, such as vitamin B, calcium and fat intake as well as blood pH levels.
MONITORING AND ADAPTING TO THE DIFFERENT STAGES
There’s no one-size-fits-all diet plan that can be prescribed for all cats with CKD. Age, possible underlying causes, disease progression rate and individual signs and clinical symptoms all need to be considered when establishing a treatment plan. Plus, the condition needs to be monitored to make sure the plan is still right for the different stages of the disease. When the situation changes, the treatment plan needs to be adjusted accordingly.
You can’t only rely on nutritional changes. Luckily there are effective medications for cats with CKD. The sooner treatment starts, the better. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) requires lifelong treatment and can be challenging for both the cat and its human family. Management of nutrition, hydration, lifestyle, and medical interventions can:
- Slow the progression of the disease
- Increase lifespan and improve quality of life