Kidney disease in cats is difficult to deal with, especially at an advanced stage. A cat with kidney disease may lose muscle mass and body weight due to loss of appetite and uncontrollable vomiting, which may indicate your cat is dying of kidney failure.
Helping your cat maintain a healthy weight during such a challenging moment is important as it helps improve its overall health and prolong its life. You can do a few things to help a cat with kidney disease gain weight.
How to help a cat with kidney disease gain weight
1. Feed a Prescribed Kidney Diet
Your cat may be struggling to gain weight due to the wrong diet. Your vet can recommend a prescription diet for cats with kidney disease to match their unique nutritional and hydration requirements.
Cats with kidney disease should eat less phosphorus and more potassium. Too much phosphorus can cause more kidney damage while feeding potassium-rich foods will help your cat because they struggle to maintain the normal potassium levels in their body.
Cats with kidney disease also need more fatty acids, antioxidants, B vitamins, and regulated amounts of sodium. You should also switch to highly-digestible protein food because proteins help your cat maintain a healthy weight and muscle mass.
You should, however, be cautious about the amount of protein-rich food you feed your cat because too much protein can weigh heavily on the kidneys. This can worsen your cat’s health, especially if the disease is advanced.
We recommend seeking expert veterinary guidance on dietary portions and supplements for your cat.
2. Treat or Manage Underlying Nausea
You must address nausea to help a cat with kidney disease gain weight. A nauseated cat will lose interest in food, and when it does eat, it may struggle to keep down the food – the cat will eventually throw up.
The kidney’s inability to perform its role properly leads to a buildup of waste, fluid, acid, salts, and minerals – such as sodium, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium – in the body. This can turn toxic, making the cat nauseated and disinterested in food.
Seek veterinary advice and prescribed medications to address the issue and boost your pet’s appetite.
3. Switch to Palatable Foods
Most prescription food may not be palatable enough for your cat to enjoy, which can make them less interested when mealtime comes.
Consider switching to more palatable foods, such as wet canned food. Canned food also contains more calories, so your cat can eat less and still maintain or gain weight.
Alternatively, consult your vet about ways to enhance the palatability of your cat’s prescribed diet. Your vet may recommend mixing wet and dry food or warming the food before feeding it to your cat.
Switching to wet canned food is a nice trick to keep your feline friend well-fed and hydrated – killing two birds with one stone.
4. Use Appetite Stimulants
Another effective way to encourage a nauseated cat with a poor appetite to eat is by using appetite stimulants. These are prescription medications that boost a cat’s appetite for food. There are several options available in different forms.
The FDA has approved Elura, a medication to help cats with kidney disease gain weight. A great alternative is a medication called mirtazapine. We recommend asking your veterinarian for advice if your cat is sick and refuses to eat or drink.
5. Consider High-Calorie Food Additives
If your cat has no appetite issues and you’re feeding a prescribed kidney diet, but your pet still cannot gain weight, you should seek veterinary advice about high-calorie supplements. Depending on your cat’s kidney health, the vet may recommend specific high-calorie gels or pastes.
Remember that cats with kidney disease need controlled amounts of certain minerals and nutrients; not all additives are safe. That’s why checking with your vet is important to ensure you’re not compromising your cat’s kidney health while trying to help them add some pounds.
6. Use Interactive Feeding Methods
Consider interactive feeding methods to make mealtimes more engaging and stimulating for your cat. Interactive feeding involves the use of toys and puzzles. It makes mealtimes more fun, helps boost mental stimulation, and reduces boredom.
7. Provide Supplemental Feeding
Supplemental feeding is a last resort to help a cat with kidney disease gain weight. Simple supplemental feeding involves feeding your cat soft or watery food with a syringe.
In contrast, complex supplemental feeding involves having a permanent feeding tube inserted into your cat to administer the food.
Supplemental feeding should only be used as a last-ditch option and under the guidance of a veterinarian. Associated risks include aspiration and choking. Make sure you know how to do it properly with the help of a vet.
Watch this video for more info about cats with chronic kidney disease (Credit: The NAVC)
Nutrition Requirements for Cats With Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease in cats cannot be cured but rather managed. You must pay keen attention to your cat’s dietary and hydration needs to help improve and prolong its life.
Your veterinarian can create a custom nutritional plan for your cat based on their needs, kidney health, age, breed, and other factors. Keeping your cat hydrated is also essential to help the kidney perform its roles as efficiently as possible.
In terms of diet, limit the amount of phosphorus intake and increase potassium intake. Antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and regulated sodium are also important to help a cat with kidney disease gain weight.
The most important thing is to work closely with your veterinarian to determine dietary changes for your cat and address other underlying issues preventing your feline friend from adding weight.
FAQs About Weight Gain in Cats With Kidney Disease
a). Why is weight gain important for cats with kidney disease?
Maintaining a healthy weight in cats with chronic kidney disease is important because it is associated with a higher survival rate and prolonged lifespan.
b). Should I feed my cat with kidney disease more frequently to gain weight?
Feeding small, frequent meals is beneficial for cats with kidney disease. It helps reduce too much stress on the kidneys, addresses poor appetite issues, and helps the cat gain weight, which has been proven to prolong its life.
c). Can I increase my cat’s food portion to help them gain weight?
Consult a veterinarian to recommend the appropriate portion sizes and diet for a cat with kidney disease. Increasing your cat’s food portion can cause more damage to the kidneys if the food contains too much of certain minerals, such as phosphorus and sodium (salt).
d). Are there any supplements to help a cat with kidney disease gain weight?
Omega-3 supplements provide additional nutrition and help boost weight gain in cats with kidney disease. However, you should consult a veterinarian before giving supplements to your ailing cat.
e). How can I encourage my cat to eat if they have a poor appetite due to kidney disease?
Strategies to encourage a cat suffering from kidney disease to eat include using interactive feeding methods, offering highly palatable food, warming the food before giving it to your cat, and using appetite stimulants as your veterinarian recommends.
f). What medications can assist in weight gain for cats with kidney disease?
Medications such as mirtazapine and appetite stimulants improve your cat’s appetite and promote healthy weight gain.
Cats with kidney struggle to add weight. Ensuring your cat has an appetite for food is important. You can switch to palatable foods or use appetite stimulants to boost your cat’s appetite. Using interactive feeding methods can entice your pet to eat more.