Pets don’t look much like us, but they can deal with the same diseases that humans suffer from: diabetes, high blood pressure, overweight, gingivitis, and kidney disease, to name a few. Especially as they get older, pets may experience the same deterioration of health that we are used to. As they are living longer because of better nutrition and health care, we can expect that they may succumb to illnesses that ordinarily don’t present themselves until older ages. And, even if kept as an indoor-only pet, our pets may still be exposed to items in their environment that can cause illness or permanent damage to internal organs.
I would not have guessed that one of our cats would develop a serious illness in her lifetime, but now I know about chronic kidney failure (CRF) because that’s what Marbles was diagnosed with. As this cat’s kidney problem became chronic, it snuck up on me, her pet “parent,” without warning. Early on in her life, she weighed as much as 10 pounds, a grown-up yet slender cat.
A few years later, at her annual checkup at the vet’s, her weight showed that she’d lost almost three pounds. I was shocked. It’s up to us to notice symptoms of illness in a pet, and get help from a veterinarian. I wasn’t aware that anything was unusual, except that Marbles was always trying to get a drink, from the faucet, from the dishes left in the sink, from the bathtub spigot. Sometimes after she ate, she would vomit her food.
Her symptoms of excessive thirst and frequent urination weren’t noticeable at first. These symptoms can indicate other disease, but they’re also quite common with CRF. A simple blood test showed an imbalance in electrolytes and a slight anemia, consistent with early kidney failure.
To help keep this disease manageable, the vet suggested trying a special diet that keeps certain elements from making the cat’s condition worse. We tried several varieties, in order to encourage her to eat, looking for the tastiest yet best-formulated food for her condition.
Fortunately there are several brands of special diet foods available, for both cats and dogs, which may allow them to live a longer life. Hill’s Science Diet and Prescription diet, as well as Royal Canin’s products along the same line, are just two brands we have fed our CRF patient.
Diet is especially important if a pet cannot digest regular pet food formulations, or if health conditions like diabetes can be regulated by a proper diet. The less medication you have to give your pet the better! There may be an issue that requires a low-fat, or low-protein, food that isn’t available in pet food commonly sold in the grocery store.
What’s good to eat? Next week I’ll look at the different brands of foods and their special applications, as well as made-at-home pet foods.