Vitamins for Cats With Kidney Disease to Increase Their Appetite

"I'd prefer canned food, thank you very much."
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If Princess has chronic kidney disease (CKD), you may be struggling to get her to eat. Some cats won't eat because they find the kidney diet unpalatable; others refuse because they're too nauseous. Fortunately, there are ways to stimulate her appetite and make her feel better.

Why Won't She Eat?

Kidneys are vital organs because they process waste. When they don't function properly Princess has toxins in her system that can make her feel nauseous. Excess stomach acid is a common cause of a depressed appetite. Gastric acid helps the stomach digest food and it's common for cats with kidney disease to produce too much of it, as the kidneys have an important part of its production. Nausea, which can be caused by high phosphorous levels or dehydration -- common in cats with CKD -- is another reason cats lose interest in food. Some cats find their sense of taste or smell affected, which can act as an appetite suppressant, while others simply don't care for the prescription food they are advised to eat.

Start Simple

There is no magic vitamin that suddenly will give Princess her appetite back. However, you can do a few simple things that may stimulate her appetite, particularly if she's in the early stages of CKD. Raising her food and water bowls so they are higher than her stomach can have an immediate positive effect. If the bowls are lower, meaning her mouth is lower than her stomach when she eats, eating can cause stomach acid to enter her esophagus and trigger acid reflux. Higher food and water dishes can minimize this problem. Feeding Princess more regularly may help with excess stomach acid because her stomach will have something in it for the acid to go to work on; her empty belly won't be irritated by stomach acid. Slippery elm bark is a natural supplement that may soothe her digestive tract and help goose her appetite.

Supplements to Help

There are several supplements you can try to make Princess more interested in eating. Since stomach acid is such a common problem, vets commonly recommend famotidine, often sold over the counter as Pepcid, to combat the problem. Excess phosphorous in cats with CKD also is a common problem because the kidneys can't process the mineral, often resulting in nausea. If your vet thinks this might be contributing to Princess's poor appetite, she may be given a phosphorous binder. Phosphorous binders often have a minty taste that cats dislike; however, they are available online in a tasteless powder that can be mixed easily into cat food. If Princess still is hesitant to eat, your vet may prescribe an appetite stimulant, such as Mirtazipine, which has the added benefit of helping with nausea. Most cats respond well to appetite stimulants, although some become more vocal or active from the drug.

Vitamins are Important

As a rule, vitamins on their own won't stimulate Princess's appetite, however it's important that she gets her nutrition to help her cope with her CKD. Vitamin B complex can help stimulate appetite; however, you must be cautious in your choice. Alpha lipoic acid, found in some B complex vitamins, can be toxic to cats. Other B complex vitamins can contain phosphorous, which must be minimized in a cat with CKD. If Princess is receiving regular fluid therapy, Vitamin B12 can be added to her fluids, which can perk her up. Cats with kidney disease tend to lose B vitamins through excess urination. If you want to try B vitamins for Princess, have your vet take a look at your choice so you make sure she's getting the proper amount of nutrients. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.

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.

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