Kidney Disease: What is it and What to do about it
By Dr. Cathy Alinovi
Kidney disease is common in all elderly pets, dogs for sure, and especially cats. Kidneys are the organs that filter the blood - they take out the waste that goes into urine, and save the fluids that the body needs. The causes of kidney failure are multifactorial: genetics, overuse of medications and vaccines, and feeding over-processed kibble made with pro-inflammatory ingredients like grains, by-products, dyes and sugars. In cats, these inflammatory ingredients cause bigger problems because most cats don't drink enough water to fully rehydrate after processing their dry food.
Prescription Foods for Dogs and Cats with Kidney Disease
There are commercially available prescription renal/kidney diets for dogs and cats. The manufacturers of these foods have funded some interesting studies which show that low protein diets decrease the actual blood numbers in patients. The association between the circulating blood chemistry values and patient health is not proven; however, the belief by the prescription diet pet food companies is that low protein diets cause less stress on the kidneys, thereby prolonging patients lives.
The Protein Controversy
As savvy pet parents who understand fundamental nutrition, the question most dog and cat owners should ask themselves is "what part of food makes muscles?" Protein makes muscles. If we don't feed protein, our pets lose muscle mass (although their actual weight may be the same because they are eating more carbs, thus gaining fat). Protein is also what makes the BUN - the blood chemistry number - that is often high in kidney patients. In renal failure patients, the kidneys are not able to keep the protein (BUN) in the blood as well as they used to, so the BUN comes out in the urine. Rather than restrict protein consumption (as the prescription foods would have you do), by feeding very high-quality, meat-based diet, kidney failure patients can extract the most nutrition as possible from the foods.
Raw Diets for Dogs and Cats with Kidney Disease
In both dogs and cats this often means feeding a raw meat diet. The benefit for dogs and cats is not only is this providing a carnivorous prey-type diet, but it is also full of moisture, and is made from high quality meats. A raw diet is moist, so it will provide needed liquids to help failing kidneys, especially in cats. For both dogs and cats, a meat-based raw diet will provide the needed building blocks to maintain muscle mass. The beauty is, broth can be added to the meals to provide even more liquid - helping the patient even more.
Preventing Kidney Failure in Dogs and Cats
Ultimately, pet parents would prefer to avoid kidney failure. In most cases, it's as easy as avoiding chemicals, not over-vaccinating, and feeding a species appropriate raw diet. Sadly, there as some cats born with kidney problems - but it begs the question of whether it's truly a genetic issue, or a development issue to kittens born to cats eating processed kibble?
Dr. Cathy Alinovi is the owner of Hoofstock Veterinary Service in Indiana. Certified in Veterinary Food Therapy, Veterinary Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Therapy, and Aromatherapy, Dr. Cathy’s approach provides whole body support through both the best in veterinary medicine as well as high-quality, all-natural foods, supplements, and health care products. She offers phone consultation services as well as in-office appointments. Visit www.hoofstockvet.com for more information.
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