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 animals 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 one that is suitable for you, such as Hills Prescription K/D Diet and Royal Canin Renal. To be effective, your pet should eat only this diet from now on. 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.
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.
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 animal 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 such as the Drinkwell water fountain 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.
Some animals with kidney failure may also be given medications to help with blood pressure normalisation, muscle balance and keep their appetite up.
A nutritional supplement such as VetriScience Renal Essentials can really help maintain the vitamin and mineral balance, and Omega 3 essential oils can also make a significant difference in reducing inflammation and maintaining anti-oxidant balance in the body.
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