There are a number of important angles and approaches for treatment of kidney failure, and the best result always comes when a number of these approaches are used at the same time. Diet is critical, as is hydration and in some cases medication.
Special Diets and Protein Levels
Feeding a special diet designed for pets with kidney issues is absolutely vital, and is the cornerstone of treatment. As mentioned earlier, one of the most important jobs for the kidneys is to filter the blood and eliminate wastes, especially protein metabolites, from the body. As such, the load on the kidneys can be greatly reduced by using a carefully balanced diet low in protein and potential metabolites.
Your vet will probably recommend a diet that is suitable for your dog or cat, such as Hills Prescription K/D Diet and Royal Canin Renal . To be effective, your pet should eat only this diet from now on, and treats suitable for pets with kidney issues such as Hills Prescription Treats . Normally a commercially prepared prescription diet is recommended – it is very difficult to accurately balance the protein requirements and vitamin levels with a home-prepared kidney diet, although it is possible and we can help with online recipe sources.
The phosphorus levels in an animal with kidney failure will often rise due to hormone changes and reduced excretion of phosphorus by the kidneys. These increased phosphorus levels can cause significant damage to other organs such as the liver, and can also result in intestinal ulceration and bleeding. Special diets for kidney problems usually have very low phosphorus, and your vet may also recommend special medication to further reduce blood phosphorus levels such as Ipakitine.
Red Blood Cell Levels
Red blood cell levels can also be affected, especially in animals with long term kidney failure. EPO, the hormone that stimulates the production of red blood cells in the body, is produced by the kidneys. The failing kidneys may not be able to produce enough EPO, which can result in dangerous drops in red blood cell counts (called anaemia), weakness and heavy breathing. Your vet may recommend EPO injections to boost this hormone level and restore blood cell counts.
Some animals with kidney failure may also be given medications to help with blood pressure normalisation, reduce metabolites, muscle balance and keep their appetite up. Medications can really help in kidney problems, but in most cases diet, nutrition and hydration is just as important, if not more so.
Hydration and Water Balance
In addition to restoring the body’s normal mineral and cell balance as described above, it is also vital to make sure that any cat with kidney issues stays very well hydrated. Water is the kidneys ‘fuel’, and as the kidney function is reduced they require more water to continue functioning efficiently. Your vet may recommend a water fountain or extra water bowls to encourage your pet to drink more, or in some cases may give special water injections (Subcutaneous Fluids) under the skin to keep a pet hydrated and improve kidney function. For more advanced cases, the vet may suggest a hospital stay where your pet will be on an IV drip.
A nutritional supplement such as VetriScience Renal Essentials can really help maintain the vitamin and mineral balance. Omega 3 essential oils can also make a significant difference in reducing inflammation and maintaining anti-oxidant balance in the body.
What’s the Long Term Outlook?
The kidneys are essential for normal balance and metabolism, and any damage or reduction in kidney function is very serious. However, treatments for animals with kidney failure have come a long way in recent years and there are many excellent therapies and solutions.
With the current treatments, many animals with kidney problems can go on to lead a happy life for many years as long as they are carefully treated and monitored. Diet, hydration and medication is vital, and repeat blood tests are recommended every 6 months (or sooner if requested by the vet), to ensure the appropriate treatments can be given.
The long term outlook really depends on the severity of the kidney damage, and if we can reverse this damage with medication and treatment. In many cases the chances are good, especially with early intervention, and big improvements can be made, even in animals with marked kidney problems.