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Kidney disease in cats
Management Of Kidney Failure in Cats
Fluid Therapy Explained

Cats with chronic renal failure are vulnerable to becoming dehydrated. This is partly because they may not be drinking or eating sufficient fluids but also because damaged kidneys are prone to losing excess fluids in the urine. Dehydration worsens renal function and can quickly worsen the cat's clinical condition. In some cats this is a recurrent problem, necessitating frequent visits to a veterinary surgery for additional fluids (e.g. via an intravenous drip). Encouraging fluid intake is therefore essential in cats with CRF and can be achieved in a variety of ways:

  • The cat should always have free access to a fresh supply of water. Provide several bowls of water within ready access.
  • If possible, offer moist rather than dry renal diets.
  • Supplement the diet with flavoured water or broths. For example, liquidise a few prawns in some water and offer this as a drink to the cat. Alternatively, poach some chicken or fish in water, and offer the water to the cat.
  • Do not offer salty liquids (e.g. fish in brine) as this increases the risk of high blood pressure developing.
  • Avoid offering milk, as this contains large amounts of phosphate, a mineral which many CRF cats are vulnerable to accumulating in excess.
  • Some cats will enjoy drinking from water fountains which can be obtained from pet shops or veterinary surgeries.

In those cats that suffer from recurrent episodes of dehydration in spite of following all of these measures, additional therapies are needed. These can involve one of the following:

  • Subcutaneous fluid therapy
    Fluids can be administered using a needle at home. Alternatively, a special catheter can be placed under the skin by a veterinary surgeon. Placement of the catheter requires a short anaesthetic and small surgical incision. The catheter has a 'port' on the outside of the skin which is attached to a fluid-giving system. Depending on the cat's requirements, between 50 and 150 ml of fluid is given on a daily to twice-weekly basis. Medications (such as potassium) can be added to the fluids if needed.
  • Fluid administration via a feeding tube
    In those cats that need a feeding tube to provide their nutrition, fluids can also be given in this way.

Home fluid therapy (subcutaneous or via a feeding tube) must only be performed under the specific recommendation of a veterinary surgeon and is not needed in all CRF cases. In those cats that do not require this therapy it can be damaging to give additional fluids (placing a greater burden on the kidneys), and there is a risk of electrolyte problems if treated cats are not monitored carefully.

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Cats with kidney failure should always have free access to a fresh supply of water

Cats with kidney failure should always have free access to a fresh supply of water.

Intravenous fluid therapy
Intravenous fluid therapy may be needed in some cats

Intravenous fluid therapy may be needed in some cats

Feeding tube
A feeding tube may be used to provide both nutrition and fluids.

A feeding tube may be used to provide both nutrition and fluids.