My 10-year-old cat was just diagnosed with kidney failure, and my veterinarian wants to give her intravenous fluids. Will this treatment really improve her life?
Unfortunately, kidney failure is very common in older cats and is usually a result of the natural progressive deterioration of the kidneys that comes with age. Kidney disease can also be caused by certain bacteria, kidney stones, urinary obstructions, or exposure to toxins, such as antifreeze.
Symptoms, including increased drinking and urination, often do not appear until the disease has progressed quite a bit. At this point, decisions must be made as to what, if any, treatment options should be pursued, taking into account the quality of the cat’s day-to-day life. While kidney disease is eventually fatal, many cats can live well for years with only partially functioning kidneys.
Because kidney disease is so prevalent in our feline friends, all cat owners should discuss with their veterinarians things they can do to try to minimize the chances of the disease occurring in their pet. While the disease is not always preventable, a good quality diet; access to clean, fresh water at all times; a low-stress lifestyle; and keeping toxic materials out of reach of your kitty can help. Also, all cats, but especially those eight years old or older, should receive physical examinations at least once a year so health problems can be detected as soon as possible.
Cats that are in kidney failure go through good and bad times. They have some days that are definitely of high quality and others during which they don’t feel very good.
There are two types of severe kidney disease. One is reversible and the other is not. Some older cats with kidney failure respond to heavy intravenous (IV) fluid therapy and stabilize enough to go on and live months or even several years with just diet changes and intermittent fluid treatments. Other cats do not respond well to fluid therapy and their health continues to decline.
You should discuss the full spectrum of treatment options with your veterinarian. Some options include having your cat hospitalized and given IV fluids, administering IV fluids to the cat on an outpatient basis several times weekly, administering fluid therapy at home, or engaging in no therapy at all. Another treatment that can help manage kidney failure is injecting a bone marrow stimulant that helps correct the anemia associated with chronic kidney disease.
The injection can be given at home under the direction of your veterinarian, but the cat must have a red cell level under about 25 percent before this treatment can be used. The drug will help your cat make more red blood cells, which helps him live longer and feel more energetic. Another option is kidney transplant surgery. This is expensive, and it can be hard to find a veterinarian who does this. To explore this option, your best bet would be to contact the veterinary college nearest you.
Nobody knows your cat as well as you do, and with your veterinarian’s advice, you should feel comfortable making whatever decision you think is in your cat’s best interest.