Treatments for kidney failure in cats

Nutrition is important in treating cats with chronic kidney disease.

Treatments for kidney failure in cats include medical procedures and therapeutic diets. Chronic kidney failure is a life-threatening disease for cats and has no definitive cure. However, early and successful treatment for acute kidney failure in cats may result in the cat regaining full function of her kidneys.

treatment for acute renal failure (ARF)

Treatment for acute renal failure is focused on removing the circulating toxins as quickly as possible and restoring electrolyte balance. This is usually accomplished by administering intravenous fluid therapy to remove the toxins in the blood. Peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis are sometimes administered to purify blood. If toxin exposure or a drug reaction is suspected, the cat’s stomach must be emptied of its contents immediately, followed by administration of activated charcoal to prevent further absorption of toxins.

treatment for chronic kidney disease (CKD)

Medical intervention for CKD is geared towards controlling symptoms and preventing the condition from worsening, usually by minimizing the buildup of toxic waste products in the bloodstream, maintaining adequate hydration, managing disturbances in electrolyte concentration, supporting appropriate nutrition, and controlling blood pressure.

Dietary modification is an important and proven aspect of treatments for kidney failure in cats, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine advises. Kidney support diets that are restricted in protein, phosphorus, sodium content and high in water-soluble vitamins, fiber and antioxidant concentrations may prolong life and improve quality of life in cats with CKD.

Veterinarian guided therapies that have the potential to help cats with CKD, include:

  • alkalinization therapy
  • administration of fluids either intravenously or subcutaneously to combat dehydration
  • hemodialysis (the removal of toxic waste products from the bloodstream by specially designed equipment)
  • kidney transplantation

nutrition for managing CKD in cats

Nutrition is an important aspect in treatments for kidney failure in cats. Many cats have difficulty accepting vet prescribed diets, so owners must be patient and dedicated to sticking to the plan. It is important to make a gradual transition to a kidney support diet and to consider food temperature, texture, and flavor. Cats with CKD that go without food for relatively short periods of time may develop significant health problems, so it is crucial to make sure that your cat is eating during a transition to a therapeutic diet.

Food portion calculations are critical to maintain adequate calorie density in order to support good body condition. Commercially available kidney support diets tend to be quite palatable because it is so important for these cats to eat in a way that slows the progression of their CKD.

A recommended kidney support diet by VCA Hospitals for cats with CKD will contain the following key components on a dry matter basis:

Table Header


28 - 35%


0.3 - 0.6%




0.4 - 2.5%

  • Phosphate binders – reducing blood phosphorus can have a major effect on improving your cat’s well being and slowing disease progression. Oral phosphate binders such as aluminum hydroxide when added to your cat’s regular food, help to lower the amount of phosphorus absorbed through the gut wall.
  • Antibiotics – Cats with CKD develop bladder infections more frequently and routine urine cultures are recommended.
  • Potassium supplementation – cats with CKD tend to lose too much potassium in the urine. This leads to muscle weakness, stiffness and poor hair quality.
  • Vitamins B and C – when the failing kidneys are unable to concentrate the urine, these water-soluble vitamins are lost and affected cats need daily supplementation.
  • Anti-emetics – for those cats that are experiencing vomiting, the use of anti-emetics (anti-vomiting mediations) administered orally or by injection reduces nausea, thereby improving appetite.
  • Blood-pressure lowering drugs – significant numbers of cats with kidney failure have high blood pressure, which can lead to further damage to the kidneys. In some cases, lowering their blood pressure may be necessary.

many cats have difficulty accepting therapeutic diets. Here are tips to help your cat transition to a kidney support diet and vet prescribed food

  1. Mix vet prescribed food with a little of your cat’s regular food. Increase the portion of the vet prescribed food over time for a full transition.
  2. Adding water, tuna juice, or low sodium chicken broth may increase the flavor and acceptance of vet prescribed food.
  3. If your cat totally rejects vet prescribed food, add a phosphate binder such as Aluminum Hydroxide to her regular food.
  4. Cats with CKD are prone to constipation. Adding Slippery Elm (a natural gel supplement to stimulate gastrointestinal tracts to produce mucus) to your cat’s water may alleviate her constipation.
  5. When feeding regular foods which are higher in protein to your cat, half the portion to reduce protein intake. Feed smaller meals to your cat with probiotics to help in digestion and elimination of wastes.

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