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Q. Our 12-year-old cat has been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. The veterinarian wants us to stick a needle in him every other day and give him fluids from a fluid bag. Is this really a good idea?
A. Yes! Giving a pet subcutaneous (literally “under the skin”) fluids at home is one of the real success stories when it comes to the nursing care pet lovers can provide. It’s not only lifesaving, but it also can be life-enhancing. The experience can provide your pet with months or even years of additional life, in a way that builds a more loving bond between you and your cat.
Renal disease is not uncommon in older animals, especially in older cats. The kidneys are the true superstar organs of the body, with many jobs to do, including filtering waste and extra water from the blood and sending it out of the body as urine. (Kidneys are so important that animals — and people — have two of them, which is why kidney transplants are possible: You can donate — or lose — one kidney and still survive on the other.)
When kidneys start failing, their function can be aided with proper hydration, and that’s where subcutaneous fluids come in. Giving thirsty kidneys a boost can help keep them on the job, allowing them to continue their vital work.
While long-term fluid therapy at home is also done with dogs, it’s very common in older cats. Our feline companions spend much of their lives chronically dehydrated, and they’re not going to suddenly and sensibly start drinking more just because their kidneys need them to. By adding fluids at home, these cats can keep their kidneys happy. Fluids in, toxins out!
Giving subcutaneous fluids at home is easy and relatively painless to your cat, especially if you bring a positive attitude to the project. Your veterinarian will show you how to administer the fluids at home. Make this a special time for you and your pet (not a dreaded “chore”) and you’ll both enjoy the the experience, rather than dreading it.
Subcutaneous fluids are generally only part of treating feline kidney disease; a special diet and medications may also be necessary. But providing fluid therapy in a home environment is a vital part of older cat care for many pets and pet owners, and it’s truly a lifesaving gift of love to a special pet.
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