Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Could Your Cat or Dog Be Critically Ill From Kidney Disease and You Don't Know It?

By Susan Blake Davis, Pet Nutritionist, AskAriel.com

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Kidney disease affects both cats and dogs, mostly in their senior years. However, young pets may have congenital deformities that can affect their kidney health at an early age too. Kidney disease can be insidious and "suddenly" appear even though your pet may have seemed perfectly healthy the day before. Or, the signs can be so subtle, such as not wanting to eat in the morning, that pet owners just attribute it to old age. Since kidney disease can often be a fatal condition, annual laboratory testing (blood and urine) is critical, along with watching out for the warning signs and notifying your veterinarian if you see them.

Warning Signs of Kidney Disease in Cats and Dogs

Lethargy, fatigue
Loss of appetite, especially in the morning
Weight loss
Increased water drinking
Increased urination
Pain, discomfort in the back
Strong, (ammonia-like) breath odor

Please note that many of the above signs are also seen in pets that do not have renal insufficiency. Regardless, these are signs your pet has some type of health condition and a visit to your veterinarian is warranted.

What Do The Kidneys Do?

The kidneys filter out toxins in the blood such as metabolic wastes, drugs and excess mineral salts as well as regulate the acidity of the blood. The kidneys also help regulate blood pressure, the production of calcium and phosphorus metabolism, and produce a hormone that stimulates red-blood-cell production called erythropoietin. Since the kidneys perform so many important functions, it is easy to see why kidney malfunction would greatly impact the way your pet feels and behaves. Unfortunately, laboratory tests may not always show kidney insufficiency until your pet’s kidney function is about 65-70% deteriorated but using this tool, along with watching the warning signs, is the best way for your veterinarian to diagnose the condition.

What Will Laboratory Tests Tell Me About My Pet's Kidneys?

In the blood, three levels are especially important to test for kidney disease. These are creatinine, BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and phosphorous. BUN measures the amount of urea nitrogen, a waste product of protein metabolism in the blood. Urea is formed by the liver and then taken by the blood to the kidneys for excretion. Because urea is cleared from the bloodstream by the kidneys, a buildup in the blood is an indicator that the kidneys are not functioning properly. Creatinine and phosphorous are also important markers for kidney disease, as they are also products excreted by the kidneys. A urine analysis also provides important information regarding your pet’s kidney health. Specific gravity of the urine measures the degree to which your pet is properly concentrating urine. In addition, your veterinarian will look to see if there is protein in the urine. Healthy kidneys will remove the waste from the blood but retain the protein. Impaired kidneys may fail to separate blood protein from the wastes. At first, only small amounts of protein may leak into the urine but as time and the disease progresses, the amount of protein in the urine increases.

How Can I Help My Pet If Diagnosed With Kidney Disease?

The goal of treatment is to help the pet to live as close to a normal life as possible, given the kidney disease diagnoses. Intravenous and subcutaneous fluids can provide much needed relief for pets. Intravenous fluids are administered by your veterinarian at the veterinary hospital while subcutaneous fluids can be administered by you at home under the direction of your veterinarian. Fluids help to flush out the toxins and control acid-base imbalances. Pets with kidney disease need a phosphorous-controlled diet. While commercial options are available, using a combination of homemade with some commercial food can work best.

Ask Ariel offers holistic pet health consultations and can help you construct a homemade or partially homemade diet for your pet that will mirror the nutritional requirements prescribed to you by your veterinarian. You can schedule a telephone appointment online at Ask Ariel or in person at VCA Arroyo Animal Hospital in Lake Forest, CA. Dr. David Gordon, holistic veterinarian, and I offer combination holistic appointments that will provide you with a complete overview (medications, supplements, fluid therapy, dietary advice and acupuncture) of all of your options in treating your pet with kidney disease. There are several supplements that can help your pet with kidney disease. These supplements are available in different forms for your convenience. For example, we offer Purrfect Pet Co Q10 Capsules as well as Oxicell which is a topical cream that contains CoQ10. Kidney Terrain provides critical vitamins and nutrients to the kidneys while Renellix helps the body to flush out toxins that accumulate in the kidneys and urinary tract. It is also important to use Kidney Health--Protein Support For Pets which is an enzyme that helps to break down protein, enhancing digestion and reducing the workload on the kidneys. We understand that having your pet diagnosed with kidney disease can be devastating and we are here to help. Using both conventional and holistic veterinary medicine can greatly enhance your pet’s prognosis. Early detection is key as well as maintaining proper hygiene for your pet (e.g. regular teeth cleanings can help your pet’s kidneys). We hope that by following these guidelines as well as getting regular laboratory testing, that you and your pet can enjoy a long and healthy life together.
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