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Dear Christopher Cat

Misty, our 17-year-old cat, has chronic renal failure. Her kidneys have been failing for a few years, and now she is all skin and bones.

The veterinarian suggests I treat her dehydration at home by injecting intravenous fluids under her skin every few days. While I’m not ready to let Misty go, giving fluids seems like heroics and beyond the capabilities of a non-medical person.

What is your opinion?

Christopher Responds

If I needed this treatment, I would think of it like any other long-term medication, not as heroic therapy.

And despite your concern about being unable to do it, I predict that after a week or two of giving Misty fluids, you’ll be bragging to your friends about how well you both are doing.

When kidneys fail, they can no longer concentrate urine. Too much water is excreted, and the pet becomes dehydrated.

Pets with chronic renal failure drink a great deal of water in an attempt to correct the dehydration, but their increased water consumption cannot keep up with excess loss through their ailing kidneys.

To supplement Misty’s oral intake, you will be giving her subcutaneous (under the skin) fluids. Cats have a large space between their skin and the underlying muscles, so injecting a sterile solution of water and electrolytes there is easy.

The fluid is absorbed over the remainder of the day. You’ll undoubtedly see Misty’s energy and appetite improve.

Other treatments for chronic renal failure include a prescription diet and medications to minimize the unpleasant clinical signs associated with the disease, and sometimes acupuncture to stimulate appetite. If a cause can be found (such as infection), it is also treated.

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