18-year-old Cat with Kidney Problems - Takes no Meds

jayteaMay 21, 2010

Our 18-year-old cat, Mister Meister, started showing symptoms of kidney disease about a year ago (losing weight, dehydration, vomiting, crying, drinking lots of water, and urinating a lot). We took him to the vet and the vet suggested that we cut out all mammal meat and dry cat food. He said the best thing to feed him is chicken breast, and to make sure to add liquids to his food so that he stays hydrated.

We started him on the special cooked chicken breast diet last year and he is doing a lot better now. Recently, he got a taste of raw chicken breast and really liked it, so we started feeding him the raw chicken that we cut into small pieces, mixing it with a little warm water, and since then he really seems to be doing even better. One of the things that I noticed before we started feeding him the raw chicken was that he was having constipation problems and his poop was very dry. Now, his poop seems to be pretty much like it used to be (I won't go into detail) before he started exhibiting the symptoms of kidney disease.

We also feed him regular canned cat food (usually Friskies, 9 Lives, or the store's premium generic brand) every day as long as it contains fish, seafood, and/or chicken or turkey with no mammal meat in it, and of course, no dry food. (I feel that the commercial canned cat food has important nutrients that cats need so it is important to supplement the chicken diet with it.

He is not taking any medications or supplements. (I suppose in the future if he symptoms significantly worsen, we will have to start giving him medication/s of some kind, but it's really nice that so far he has improved with just a special diet.)

I just wanted to share our experience with others in the hopes that it might help someone else who has a kitty with kidney problems. Always check with your vet first.


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I suspect many of the more common diseases and illnesses our pets have are related to feeding manufactured food. The key for kitties is adequate taurine. Chicken leg meat has more taurine than white meat by the way. Sounds like you have a holistic vet. Good luck with your kitty, I hope he continues to do well on real food!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 3:21PM
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I have a CRF cat who's been such for 4 years now. She is also hyperthyroid.

About a year and a half into her illness, she got very ill and we thought that was it for her. She pulled out of it, but after that I decided to abandon an attempt at quantity of life for quality of life. I quit feeding her the RX diet that she hated, and started feeding her a lot of high quality protein that she loved (hadn't thought about it until now, but it is mostly fish and chicken). Though age and time weaken her, her bloodwork has been much more consistent, and better, over the past 2.5 years. She also gets sub-q fluids, but since switching to the more protein rich diet, she hasn't had an out of range kidney reading (don't know how much the fluids help). Interesting how some cats do better with this diet plan.

Ours also eats a high quality commercial food that is low in protein and phosperous. She has always enjoyed eating dry food despite the fact that she has almost no teeth!

It sounds like you have a super vet and a trooper of a kitty. The vets at our practice stopped offering much advice after about 3 years of this- they say, "whatever you are doing is right, so keep doing whatever that is." Some of the employees there blame her longevity on the fact that she is a crabby old tortie who won't quit- they just might be right that this is the reason.

Good luck to you and your kitty.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 4:52PM
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Thanks so much for the replies. Starting today he seems to not be doing very well and my heart is breaking and I don't know what to do. He ate early this morning, but since then he just lays on my bed - he hasn't eaten or even asked to eat since then - he seems weak. I put him in his litter box and he peed. I have been giving him eyedropperfuls of water, but I am so scared as I don't know what is happening here. I'm just not ready for this.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 10:57PM
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I'm sorry that your boy is doing poorly. Unfortunately, this is the nature of CRF. It affects so many body systems that things can easily go amiss in the delicate balance of things. There are many things that can be done to counteract and correct problems that arise, but you can't do any of them effectively without knowing what needs correcting. That's where bloodwork (full blood chemistry and CBC) and a vet exam comes in. It sounds like your boy needs an exam and testing now. The sooner you catch problems and work to correct them, the better.


    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 10:33AM
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Janet, since you are giving him eyedroppers of water, I'll guess it's safe to assume that you aren't using sub-q fluids with him? As Laurie stated, given his condition, I'd get him to the vet for an exam and ask about the possibility of trying sub-q fluids if the vet feels his being down is because of his kidneys. They work wonders for my old girl.

It's so hard to guess what might be going on with them when they are down, so get him to the vet to be checked. One time my old girl was so sick she wouldn't even come out from under the bed, it turned out she had an impacted anal gland and it had nothing to do directly with the CRF. Please get to the vet. (((HUGS)))

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 11:04AM
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Thanks so much for the encouraging replies.
He is doing much better now, but I had never seen him like he was yesterday - so listless, not wanting to eat, or drink. Actually, he started rallying late yesterday, and today is much better. He has already had 3 chicken breast meals and one wet cat food meal, and it's 3 o'clock in the PM. (When I give him the cut up raw chicken I add some warm water to it to help keep him get more liquids).
When we went to see the my vet last year the vet said that I could spend hundreds of dollars getting blood work done, but the best thing to do for now would be to change his diet, and it has worked. The vet also said that the sub q liquids can make them pretty uncomfortable. I feel he gave me pretty good advice at the time, (when the vet examined MM he said that by feeling the kidneys from the outside, they felt pretty much okay) but if MM has many more days like yesterday, we will havc to do something.
By the way, my vet didn't charge us anything for the visit.
It's good to be able to communicate with others who have been through this. Thanks so much!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 6:08PM
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I'm a little confused. If no bloodwork has been done on your cat, how was the CRF diagnosis made? The symptoms you listed in your initial post aren't exclusive to renal problems.

In regards to subQ fluids, I have to disagree with your vet. When administered properly, subQs can make CRF cats feel much, much better and cause little or no discomfort whatsoever. Some CRF cats will even seek out their caretakers when it's time for their fluids. All three of my CRF cats would have lived much shorter and more miserable and sickly lives if not for subQ fluid administrations after CRF diagnosis.


    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 7:56PM
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I also must disagree with your vet's assessment on sub-q fluids- it is a liter bag of miracles at our house.

When my kitty first got sick, the vet explained it to me that the combination of dehydration and toxins that subsequently build up in the body as a result of loss of kidney function can make a cat feel pretty miserable. Having suffered dehydration myself in the past, I can testify that it is a bad, bad feeling.

That said, my vet gave me license to give fluids based on how well she is doing, rather than a set schedule. She has needed far less fluid since starting her higher protein diet, but when things take a turn for the worse (she'll start with vomiting) I am oh so happy to have those fluids on hand. She feels so much better in just a short time- I'm not sure I can comprehend exactly what your vet means by sub-q's making them more uncomfortable- there is nothing uncomfortable about it for my kitty, just the contrary.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 9:55AM
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SubQs can be quite uncomfortable if they are improperly administered (too large or poor quality needles, fluids not warmed, fluids with additives that sting, fluids administered in the wrong spots, too much fluid administered in a single spot, etc.). But when they are administered correctly, they can be both soothing and lifesaving.


    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 10:40AM
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I was told that high protein is super bad for cats with kidney problems. I do however give him Wellness cat food since he prefers to eat that. In the end, I think eating something is better than not eating at all. I add Epakitin (Phosphorus binder to prevent more deterioration of the kidney), and also add more water to make it slightly soupy. My cat likes that, and it helps give him more liquid.

Regarding SubQ - I agree that it's very important. My cat was super sick 3 years ago. He was laying in his litter box and can't even get up. The 2 things that saved him for the past 3 years were definitely food and sub Q. The fact that he started eating again gave him strength. I actually bought every type of food out there and just put it out for my cat hoping that he'd eat something and eventually he did. After he started eating again after 5 days of not eating, he regained his energy.

Sub Q helps with his dehydration problem. Even if he drinks a lot, it's just not enough. I can tell by pulling the skin behind his back whether he's dehydrated or not. If it doesn't sprint back quickly, then he needs his fluids. I always give him treats during or after the sub Q session, so my cat actually looks forward to it nowadays.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2011 at 9:24AM
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spedigrees z4VT

Also highly in favor of sub-cutaneous (fluids administered under the skin, nicknamed sub-Q fluids.) I would get a second opinion, ie see another vet and ask him/her to show you how to give fluid treatment to your kitty. Or else try to prod your current vet into giving fluids a try.

Be sure to use size 20 needles. For some reason most vets prefer size 18 which is a bigger diameter and uncomfortable for the patient. However they will provide 20 gage needles if you request them.

My current kitty is 18 yrs old like your cat, and she gets fluids once a week. The two cats I had before her both were on fluid treatment at home (per order of my vet) first once weekly, and later twice weekly. They both lived into their 20s and the therapy vastly improved their quality of life. I also gave my little sheltie fluid treatment twice weekly for her last two years when her kidney function began to deteriorate, again as mandated by my vets. In all my CRI (chronic renal insufficient) pets, the fluids alleviated nausea, improved appetites, renewed my animals' energy, and just made my pets SO much more comfortable. If you've ever suffered from dehydration (during an illness for instance) you know how miserable this is (headache, grogginess, nausea, etc.)

Once an animal becomes accustomed to receiving the fluids, they will lie quietly for the treatment. My cats have all laid on my lap and purred. I think after a few times they began to connect the therapy with feeling better immediately afterwards. I give/gave fluids while watching TV and it is a relaxing experience, not painful or stressful for me or my pets.

There are a lot of instructional web sites and CRF/CRI groups right here on yahoo that can help answer questions for you. These were invaluable to me when I was just learning to give fluids. A vet tech instructed me, but it helped to also have these resources. Also there are many places who sell at a discount lactated ringer solutions (the bags of fluid) as well as 20 gage turamo needles and the lines that attach the needle to the fluid bag. However with only one kitty to treat, you're probably better off just getting your fluid supplies from your vet.

Don't assume there is nothing you can do for your cat. Sub-Q fluids should vastly improve both your cat's quality of life as well as longevity. Your cat cannot get the amount of fluids needed to help counter CRI simply by drinking. Good luck and hope kitty feels better.

Nutrition is important, but it comes in a pale second when treating CRI. Sub-cutaneous fluids should be the first and foremost treatment.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2011 at 11:35AM
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I second the Terumo needles!!!!! MUCH MUCH better than the brand obtained at the vet. I had to get mine online. You can get a smaller needle but with almost the same flow as the big ones the vet uses because Terumos come in ultra-thin wall (make sure you look for that if you're going to buy them). They're sharper too. I cringed the few times I used the vet-supplied needles, feeling it press into before puncturing the skin. The Terumos just slid right in. MUCH more comfortable on the kitty (and on my nerves).

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 7:15PM
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I very much disagree with your vet. Lab work is extremely important to determine what your cat's levels are...and my cat doesn't mind receiving sub-q fluids at all! I warm up the bag of fluids in a bowl of warm water before administering them to her, and she happily scarfs treats during the whole procedure, which only takes a couple of minutes. Afterwards, she sits on my lap and we cuddle for a while. Please get a second opinion. I doubt that my cat would still be alive if I hadn't begun this treatment for her.

Take care...

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 11:53AM
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