Diminished kidney function in cats (and sometimes dogs) is a common finding that occurs with age. Signs commonly associated with loss of kidney function are increased thirst, increased urination and weight loss. Diagnosis is confirmed through blood and urine tests.
Western medicine has limited resources when it comes to treating CRI and CRF. Acute care often includes hospitalization and intravenous (IV) fluids. Longer term care may involve subcutaneous (SQ) fluids, phosphate binders, a potassium supplement and prescription diets such as Hills K/D®. Beyond that, conventional medicine does not have much to offer.
Fortunately, that is not the end of the story. Through holistic care, many animals with CRI or CRF can have improved quality and quantity of life. Once a patient’s kidney values are chronically elevated, we know that at least 75% of their kidney function has been lost. The key to maintaining their well-being is to maximize the kidney function they have remaining.
As with most holistic treatments, the foundation is nutrition. Conventional wisdom dictates that by restricting protein in patients with renal disease, we help preserve their remaining kidney function. There are several problems with theory. The first is that animals with early stage kidney disease are sometimes put on protein restricted diets too early. Restricting protein at this point can lead to a loss of muscle/ weight. Second, the restricted diets tend not to be particularly palatable and thus the animals do not eat well and lose weight. In addition, an argument can be made with respect to the quality, not quantity, of the protein. If we look at the ingredient lists of prescription renal diets, what we find are often meat by-products and and non-meat sources of protein (gluten). Neither of these is an ideal protein source for a carnivore.
A more holistic approach to nutrition in these animals is to feed them a very high quality diet that has more digestible protein. The animals can utilize the protein to maintain muscle mass and tend to eat better because the food tastes like food.
Nutritional supplementation provides the cat or dog with vital nutrients that they may be lacking. They may need more of these nutrients than a “normal” animal because they are trying to support and maintain kidney tissue and they may be losing nutrients through their excess urination. There are a number of excellent kidney support products from companies such as Standard Process, Rx Vitamins for Pets, and others.
Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM) is an excellent avenue to help treat kidney disease. The use of acupuncture can help improve blood flow, energy and appetite. In addition, Chinese herbal formulations, particularly those containing the herb rehmannia, have been clinically proven to improve renal blood flow and function.
People are often surprised at how well cats and dogs accept acupuncture. Many times they seem relax quicker and more completely than do their owners. Many of the animals we treat with acupuncture eat better, are livelier and have an overall better quality of life.