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Dr. Michael Fox, Published February 06 2014

Pet care: What to do for cats with kidney failure

Dear Dr. Fox: I am a huge fan of your work and advice. I have had a heck of a year since March: I’ve lost five cats. I lost three cats within three months of each other and two to kidney failure.

Now, another cat is diagnosed with severe kidney failure (9.9 creatine levels). We’ve gotten a grim prognosis from the vet. I am giving him fluids every other day, but he is losing weight and not eating much. I have many questions.

Why this is happening? And how? And what can I do? These cats are not old. They are 11 to 13 years old.

Sadly, by the time you see them heavily drinking water, it is too late. This has been my experience. They say that by this point, 70 percent of kidney function is gone. Is it the water, the litter, the food? Should I have been giving them raw food?

I rescue, trap, spay and neuter strays. I see the crap food they get from volunteers. I coddle, make their food and give them herbs and nutrients. I am frustrated and need to talk to a professional natural doctor of veterinary medicine.

My regular vet has no answers, just a diagnosis and blood work results. A statistic says it is the No. 1 reason for cat illness and death. I am an herbalist. I try to do things right, but I must be doing things wrong.

I know my cat with kidney failure now will die, and I will agonize over his decline and weight loss and ultimately have to put him to sleep when all hope is gone, just like the others.

UPDATE: Blue passed away a week before Christmas – he was not eating and was suffering. Noted herbalist Juliette de Bairacli Levy suggested giving cats sea kelp, coconut oil, a raw diet and lots of sun and “wildness” in their life, along with limited vaccines, chemicals, flea treatments, etc.

I put nettle and cleavers in my cats’ food, which are supportive kidney herbs. I am on hyper alert now for any cat that I see drinking water, because when I see this, that is usually the next one to go.

What should I be doing now? I am overwhelmed with the finality of this kidney disease. Is there any research being done? Thank you so much. – J.M., Washington, D.C.

Dear J.M.: I’m sorry for your losses. My short article on caring for cats with kidney disease and renal failure on DrFoxVet.com may help.

Dandelion root tea and subcutaneous fluids may help – give them to your cat by dropper – they act as a cheap form of dialysis. Blood potassium and phosphate levels must be monitored, as well as blood pressure. Vitamin D supplements may also help. Cats with a poor appetite can be helped with highly palatable meaty varieties of Gerber’s baby foods.

Good luck. There are many theories as to possible causes: some related to the non-carnivore dietary formulations high in cereals and poor-quality protein, still being widely marketed and other to a possible vaccination-linked autoimmune disease.

Hope for cats with chronic kidney disease

Veterinarian Jessica Quimby and colleagues at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital are analyzing the effects of stem cell treatment on chronic kidney disease in cats.

Half of cats older than age 10 develop chronic kidney disease, and there is no cure for the progressive condition. Prior studies by the group found some improvements in renal function among cats who received intravenous stem cells collected from the fat of donor cats.

The current study will evaluate the effect of stem cells injected near the target organ. For more information, visit PhysOrg.com.

Dear Dr. Fox: My 7-year-old yellow Lab has a bad habit that is driving me crazy. When she is in the yard playing with a ball or stick, she stops playing and starts pulling out the grass with her teeth. She does not dig holes.

She does this when she is alone and when I am out there with her. When you try to correct her, she thinks it is a game, runs across the yard and does it again.

What can be done to correct this behavior? We cannot leash her every time she needs to go out or prevent her from running around. Do you think an electronic training collar would help, or might it do more damage to her mental state? Any recommendations would be appreciated. – M.M.

Dear M.M.: Is your dog eating some of the grass or just snapping and pulling it up?

If she is eating some of the grass, you must know that is normal dog behavior. Give her a small unmowed patch of couch grass to nibble on. This could be good for her digestive system and urinary tract. Dogs with some internal irritation or discomfort will often eat grass, and not always to trigger vomiting.

If this is more a redirected play behavior, throw her some sturdy squeaky toys and 18-inch ropes with a knot on both ends, which she may especially enjoy being able to retrieve and “kill.”

Never use a shock collar. For details, check my short article, “Dominance Training” on my website, DrFoxVet.com.


Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxVet.com.