Almost 50 percent of felines over the age of 15 will develop chronic renal failure (CRF, or "kidney failure"). Although there is no known cure, the use of nutrition, drugs, fluid therapy, and supplements -- like probiotics -- can help the CRF patient live a quality life, often for many years.
Chronic renal failure, or CRF, can affect cats at any age; however, the disease is mostly diagnosed in older felines whose kidneys have been damaged or worn out over the years. Healthy kidneys eliminate waste from the blood and regulate electrolytes in the body. When kidneys don't function properly, waste builds up in the body, poisoning the cat. Other problems such as electrolyte imbalances, anemia and blood pressure problems may also develop due to kidney disfunction.
Diagnosis & Symptoms
CRF must be diagnosed with blood work and a urinalysis. If your cat shows signs of increased thirst and urination -- CRF is often called the "drink a lot, pee a lot" disease --, a decreased appetite, weight loss and wasting you should visit your vet. Other symptoms include occasional vomiting, bad breath or the smell of urine on the skin, and a dull coat -- with hair loss or heavy shedding.
Probiotics, sold over the counter, are "live organisms" that include a variety of “friendly” bacteria beneficial for the digestive tract, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and other Lactobacillus species, and certain strains of Bacillus, Enterococcus, Bifidobacteria, and Streptococcus. These organisms help to control and reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. Intestinal bacteria may also help prevent diseases like peptic ulcers, colorectal cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Vomiting or Diarrhea
CRF cats may have excessive vomiting, or even diarrhea. These digestive upsets can be due to antibiotics, which your veterinarian may use to treat an underlying urinary tract infection. Healthy kidneys flush the hormone gastrin out. Gastrointestinal problems or even anorexia -- refusing to eat -- may be caused by excessive amounts of gastric acids building up in the kidneys.
Probiotics: Promising New Treatment
Recent research has shown that kidney blood values (BUN and creatinine) decreased significantly when cats were given probiotics in canned food. Certain probiotics use toxins to multiply, so these organisms can then help carry the load of toxic waste in the kidney across the intestinal wall into the bowel, where they can be excreted. In other words, the colon steps in and helps to reduce circulating toxins.
Probiotics are found in the yogurt you buy in the grocery store. However, adding a tablespoon of yogurt to your cat's food may not be sufficient -- and if your cat is lactose intolerant, the yogurt may make him sick. You can buy probiotic powder or capsules in health stores or from your vet. Choose a supplement that contains at least Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. Many probiotics must be kept refrigerated to keep the organisms viable.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Debra Levy has been writing for more than 30 years. She has had fiction and nonfiction published in various literary journals. Levy holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing/fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars.