Dear Christopher Cat: Our elderly cat, Oscar, is in the early stages of chronic kidney disease. His veterinarian encouraged additional water intake but did not change his diet.
We’re confused, because with our last cat, the vet started a kidney diet as soon as he diagnosed chronic kidney disease. When should Oscar begin eating a special diet?
Christopher Responds: That depends on several factors, including Oscar’s lab results and other diseases he may have. After all, every cat is an individual.
In assessing and caring for pets with chronic kidney disease (CKD), veterinarians are guided by a group of veterinary specialists called the International Renal Interest Society (IRIS).
IRIS guidelines for diet, medications and other therapies are based on the severity of the pet’s CKD. Severity is described by IRIS stage, which takes into account blood levels of creatinine (a metabolic waste product excreted by the kidneys), blood pressure, concentration of the urine, and the amount of protein in the urine.
Stage 1 is the mildest form of CKD, while stage 4 is the worst. Veterinarians usually transition cats with CKD to a kidney diet during stage 2 or 3, before the CKD dampens the cat’s appetite.
For a description of how kidney diets differ from other diets, visit veterinarypartner.com and search the term “chronic kidney disease” for articles on Dietary Therapy of Renal Failure and related topics.