Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the most common renal disease affecting dogs and cats, especially older animals. Its causes
are varied and include trauma, toxins, genetic anomalies, hypertension, ischemia, infections, immunologic diseases, neoplasia,
and idiopathic interstitial nephritis. Since there is no single cause of CKD and the cause is often unknown, there is no definitive
protocol for preventing it at this time.
By the time pets with CKD exhibit increased thirst and other signs of disease, their kidneys are already only functioning
at 15 to 30 percent of capacity. (Comstock Images/Getty Images)
To manage patients with renal failure, proper nutrition is critical. Animals with CKD often become inappetent and are unable
or unwilling to consume a sufficient amount of calories. A deficiency in calories and essential amino acids increases catabolism
of muscle and other body proteins (e.g. albumin, immunoglobulins). Starvation is a serious concern when treating patients with this disease.
Dietary management may slow the progression of CKD, although there is some controversy as to when dietary intervention should
be initiated and what diet to give. But once a patient is showing signs of uremia, it is a generally accepted practice to
decrease the patient's phosphorus and protein intake to alleviate clinical signs. Following is a closer look at the effects
of CKD and how proper nutrition can help.
Role of the kidneys
Kidneys remove wastes from blood that are produced from the breakdown of food, old cells, toxins or poisons, and many drugs
given to treat other diseases. The wastes are removed with water as urine. The waste products measured in the blood include
creatinine and urea nitrogen, but many other waste products are not measured by blood tests. The kidneys also regulate the
amount of water in the blood by excreting extra water and retaining water to prevent dehydration by varying the amount of
urine that is produced. In addition, the kidneys help regulate blood pressure by saving or eliminating sodium.