Why are kidney disease and renal failure so prevalent among cats?

February 5

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have had a heck of a year since March: I’ve lost five cats. I lost three cats within three months of one another, and two to kidney failure.

Now, severe kidney failure has been diagnosed in another cat (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.

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

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

I rescue, trap, spay and neuter strays. I see the terrible food they get from volunteers. I coddle them, make their food and give them herbs and nutrients.

My regular vet has no answers, just a diagnosis and blood work results. A statistic says kidney failure 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.

Update: Blue passed away a week before Christmas. He was not eating and was suffering.

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 one is usually the next to go.

I am overwhelmed by the finality of kidney disease. Is there any research being done?

J.M., the District

DF: I’m sorry for your losses. My short article on caring for cats with kidney disease and renal failure (at www.drfoxvet.com) might be of help.Dandelion root tea and subcutaneous fluids might help — give them to your cat by dropper — because they act as a cheap form of dialysis. Blood potassium and phosphate levels must be monitored, as well as blood pressure.

Vitamin D supplements might 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 are related to the non-carnivore dietary formulations, high in cereals and poor-quality protein, still being widely marketed, and others to a possible vaccination-linked autoimmune 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 10 develop chronic kidney disease, and there is no cure for the progressive condition.

Previous studies by the group found some improvements in renal function among cats that 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 information, go to www.
physorg.com
.

GOING GRAIN-FREE

Dear Dr. Fox:

I sent my original e-mail to you Nov. 7, and I want to share the benefits of your good advice about changing my dog’s diet.

My female Labrador mix has been on Authority Grain-Free Dry Dog Food for 10 weeks or so. In this time, she has not had a single bout of diarrhea or loose stool, and her anal glands have not leaked constantly as they had been doing.

Once, her groomer said that her anal glands were pretty full and emptied them. So I went back and checked the ingredients in the dry dog foods I tried before, including Science Diet Adult, Purina One Smart Blend, Authority and Science Diet ID. The one common ingredient in all those foods was corn.

Also, they all had some form of soy (meal, flakes or oil), except Authority. Therefore, I’m thinking she has sensitivity to corn.

Feeding her the grain-free food has resolved the problem. She had few symptoms of an allergy. She never vomited and she did not have dark stools or other symptoms, except the repetitive bouts of diarrhea and stinky breath. Could the corn have been “fermenting” in her gut, causing all these problems, including the bad breath?

T.D., St. Louis

DF: Corn and soybean farmers get huge subsidies that benefit the livestock feed industry, as well as the human food and beverage industries.

These are cheap ingredients that the pet food industry has used for decades. At first, according to informed opinion I drew from letters received from dog owners, these ingredients were not a significant problem for most dogs.

But, as I have documented in my writings about GMOs — genetically modified organisms — these are also widely used by the human food industry. The more that GMO corn and soy were being grown and used in pet foods, the more digestive, skin and other health problems were reported to me by pet owners. The proverbial penny dropped when many of their animals recovered to full health when corn and soy were removed from their diets.

The companies selling GMO seeds deny that there are any health or environmental concerns and falsely claim that this is the most efficient way to produce affordable food and feed a hungry world. They have spent millions of dollars to defeat civil society initiatives in California and Washington state to label all products that contain GMO ingredients.

Many readers will appreciate your success with changing your dog’s diet and see the GMO issue as a red flag for their own health, as well as that of their pets.

Some imported rice is GMO, as are products from canola, sugar beet, cotton and alfalfa. Soon, if this biotech industry has its way, wheat could become GMO. Informed consumers must stop this insanity in the marketplace.

Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

2014 United Feature Syndicate

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