CRF, Chronic Renal Failure, is also often referred to as 'kidney disease' or 'kidney failure'. CRF is progressive, and terminal. A very good definition what happens in CRF is, "Approximately 200,000 tiny structures (nephrons) in the kidneys eliminate waste products and regulate electrolytes in the body. CRF results when these nephrons begin to die off and waste products and electrolytes can no longer be processed effectively. The waste then accumulates in the cat's body. In effect, a cat in CRF is being poisoned by the waste that the kidneys are unable to filter. Electrolyte imbalances, anemia and blood pressure problems may also occur as the kidneys continue to deteriorate." (This information is from the Feline CRF Information Center site, http://www.felinecrf.com.) There are two types of Renal Failure - chronic and acute. Myriah has been diagnosed with chronic renal failure. She was diagnosed when she was 7, in June of 1997. At that time, the vet suggested that she be placed on Hills K/D Prescription food, both canned and dry. She has eaten similar foods ever since. There is some debate in the veterinary & CRF community as to the effectiveness of cats with early mild CRF being placed on K/D or other low-protein foods. (More on foods below.) However, in Myriah's case, it has seemed to work wonders. Her numbers have fallen, and she is happy and appears healthy.
In March 2001, she was about to turn 11, and her numbers (directly kidney-related only) were:
BUN: 24.5 (this was
outside the normal values at this lab, by a bit)
In June 2001 she was retested at a new vet whose lab was different:
BUN: 39 (normal for
this lab was 18-34)
These are U.S. numbers, and according to most averages, her BUN is higher than 'normal' but her Creatinine falls within normal parameters. I don't have her original numbers but originally both were definitely higher than this. Often you will have to keep an eye on phosphorus, calcium and other numbers as well; your vet will guide you. Myriah's other numbers are very much in the normal range (again, she is lucky so far). Keep in mind when you view your cat's numbers, different labs use different ways of judging these amounts. Therefore, don't assume that if your cat's numbers are much higher or even the same, that your cat is very ill, or anything. We often say on the mailing lists (listed below): treat the cat, not the numbers. Some people are able to simply change their pet's diet, and that makes a world of difference. Others find they have to provide their pet with fluids on a regular schedule. Whatever is happening, don't panic. Others have been through this and will be through it again, and can help you a great deal. PLEASE see the mailing lists below; they can be totally invaluable.
Another useful tip is to keep in touch with others who have pets (cats or dogs) with this affliction. There are several excellent mailing lists at Yahoo! groups. Please check these out, and if interested, subscribe to one or more that best seems to fit your needs:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Caring-for-CRF-Felines - this is a smaller, very personable group of forgiving, loving people. Even some of those whose pets have lost the battle stay on the group to provide support and advice. My personal favorite, especially for those who have just discovered their cat has CRF, or who are 'maintaining' their cat through fluids and/or diet and are looking for others to share experiences..
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FelineCRF - this is a somewhat larger list with guidelines on posting. People can often provide a great deal of advice; however, any posting not strictly related to CRF is discouraged. Good for those who have 'crises' or have just found out and would like more info.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CRF-HelpingHand - this group is similar to Caring-for-CRF-Felines, above, but is specifically aimed at finding others in your area in the same circumstances, in order that if an owner has to go out of town for any reason, others will be able to assist in the care of the CRF cat.
As for food:
I have fed Myriah various types: Hills K/D dry and canned, Eukanuba Renal dry and canned, Walthams low-protein low-phosphoros dry and canned, and the newest one: Triumph Pet's Hi-Tor Neo-Diet, canned only. The first three are only available through veterinarians. The last one, the Hi-Tor, I found by accident at a small pet store. It is available at select locations, or you can order it on-line. (Keep in mind that the list of 'stores' from their web site is not accurate as of 9/2001; they used to list more stores but now they only list 8 for all of California which I know isn't accurate. You may have to call them to ask for a list of stores, or call around to your local SMALLER pet stores, not the big chains.) My veterinarians had NOT heard of it. However, Myriah seemed to prefer this to any of the other foods, and when I compared the actual numbers, it seemed comparable. Others have also reviewed it and agreed. Depending on your own experimentation with foods, you may wish to print out the numbers on Hi-Tor and bring them to your vet to see what he/she thinks; it may be worth a shot if you have trouble getting your cat to eat the other diets. Others recommend and feed their cats raw diets; I have no comment on this as I don't do it. Join the mailing lists, talk with your veterinarian, search online. Many on the lists become more knowledgeable than their vets!
Anyone can also email me if you'd like and I will try to direct you to a place that can help (email@example.com). Feel free to email if you are just worried and need somebody to talk to. Remember, don't panic; take time for yourself too; and relax. The cat will sense your fear and worry!
For those whose pets don't have CRF - just remember, a blood test done for totally different reasons is how I found out about Myriah so early. Get a simple blood panel done every year at your pet's checkup - you may be able to add years onto their life that way.
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