Older cats with kidney disease need to keep eating
Cats live longer now than ever, thanks in a large part to the dedicated care of their owners. Medical and nutritional advancements also have played a role and have helped many cats live well into their teens and even 20s.
One of the more common problems in senior cats is kidney disease. In fact, experts suggest that at least half of cats over the age of 15 will develop this debilitating condition. Diet changes, fluid therapy, medications to help directly with kidney disease and the anemia that often accompanies it, and even kidney transplants have been successful in many cases in extending lives.
One of the notable issues with kidney disease is that many feline sufferers will have a depressed appetite. This can compound the renal disease as cats may almost waste away or starve. Cats with a good appetite and little weight loss — assuming they were at an optimum weight to begin with — have a much better chance of living longer and with a better quality of life if they develop this disease.
Dr. Jessica Quimby at Colorado State University has relied on appetite stimulates for her patients to keep them at more normal body weight when suffering from kidney disease.
Drugs such as the oral medications cyproheptidine or mirtazipine have been prescribed to help perk up a picky eater’s appetite. For many cats, popping a pill down their throat may be all it takes to get them to eat. For others, it’s stressful and almost physically impossible to administer these drugs per mouth.
Dr. Quimby believes that appetite stimulant drugs, especially mirtazapine, play such an important role that even cats that aren’t willing to take medication would benefit from their use. Her solution is to formulate mirtazipine in a gel that is readily absorbed through the skin when applied to the inside of the ear. With her ongoing research, this may soon be part of the standard treatment for feline kidney disease.
For more information about your elderly cat and the risk of renal disease and the available treatments, check with your veterinarian.