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FIV and Kidney Disease k/d food vs. regular for sick and healthy cats

By: Dr. Jon Rappaport

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Our question this week was:

I have 3 cats that have lived together for over 6 years and they are all inside cats. The oldest is just over 11 years. He has been losing weight and drinks more water than usual. We took him to the vet and had a complete blood work done. He has been diagnosed with FIV and a slight kidney infection. Everything else came back fine.
Our vet prescribed him k/d cat food, which he likes.

My question is: is the k/d food ok for the other cats to eat? Both my husband and myself work and are gone during the daytime, so we've always had a bowl of regular food out for them. Now, we've been feeding them in the morning and at night when we come home - k/d to Bandit and the other two their regular food. We've noticed their consumption going down, obviously, but is it hurting the other two cats? We can't keep the other two away from the k/d food, unless we stand there until they're done eating. Then we pull up all 3 bowls of food. They aren't big eaters, but eat a little bit here and there, throughout the day.

I guess I have two questions - is the k/d food ok for cats that don't have kidney disease (or can we supplement regular canned food at night) and if it's not ok for them, do you have any suggestions on feeding them? The vet said to separate them, but they're like brothers and sisters and do everything together. They would be very upset being apart.

Denise Donovan


Answer

Hi – thanks for your email. You have a couple question – first – is it okay for other normal healthy cats to eat the "K/D" – which is a food formulated for cats with kidney disease. The second question is recommendations for dealing with a multi-cat household in which one cat has an infectious disease (FIV).

First, let's talk about the K/D. It is okay if your other cats eat the K/D. It won't hurt them as long as they are mature adult cats. On the other hand, they don't need K/D and would better off eating a normal AAFCO approved diet for their life stage. Is it possible to give them access to areas where your cat with kidney disease can't go? Or is it possible to give them a treat of regular canned food to augment any K/D that they eat?

I realize that it is difficult to feed different cats different foods in a multi-cat household. What tends to work is feeding them in different areas (during any canned food feedings).

The second question is "how do you best deal with a multi-cat household in which one cat has an infectious disease (FIV)? This is difficult. You indicated that these cats have been together and you believe they will be stressed by being separated. I'll give you a couple thoughts.

First, just to make sure we are on the same page about FIV, here is some information from an article on our Petplace site:

The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) was first identified in 1986. As its name implies, the virus may cause a syndrome in cats very similar to AIDS in people. Like HIV, FIV may lie dormant for years before symptoms occur. An FIV-positive cat may even live out his natural life without developing symptoms of the disease.

If the virus does become active, it may suppress the immune system, allowing infections that can normally be controlled by the body to cause severe, debilitating disease.

FIV is not contagious to people. It is an infectious disease spread from cat to cat, primarily through bites. It is not spread through urine or casual contact. FIV has been found in the mother's milk and can be transmitted from mother to kitten. A blood test, often combined with the test for FeLV, can identify infection.

Recently, a vaccine has been developed to help reduce the risk of contracting FIV. It is about 84 percent protective. Unfortunately, there is no cure for cats that are infected with FIV.

The best protection from FIV is prevention. Keep your cat indoors and have him or her neutered, since neutered cats tend to fight less. Most importantly, have all new cats or kittens tested for the virus before introducing them to your home.


What can you do? You can consider separating your cats as that is the very safest thing to do to prevent infection, providing they are not already infected. That being said, it is thought that transmission among household cats through normal contact is unlikely. On one hand, you want to be safe. On the other hand, they have already been together for a long time it sound like and transmission in this environment is thought to be unlikely. It is a difficult decision and only one that you can answer. If you were to ask most veterinarians, they would probably say that separating them is ore trouble that it is worth relative to the risk.

I'd recommend testing all of your cats so you know their status. For example, if they are all positive, there is no need to consider separating them. I'd vaccinate the ones that are not infected. I'd keep your infected cat indoors and not bring any new cats into the household.

A couple articles that might be helpful to you is on our Petplace.com is "Chronic Kidney Disease in Cats" and "Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)"


Best of luck!



Dr. Jon




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