Short Takes: 03/05

News on kidney disease; cats arent vegans; the danger of Easter lilies

Averting Kidney Disease
While dishing out those prescription kidney diets for middle-aged and older cats with chronic renal failure (CRF), the question is a logical one: Why not feed younger cats something to prevent kidney disease in the first place?

A study to be published in Veterinary Research Communications (June 2005) is a first step toward understanding risk-factor biomarkers for future kidney disease in young, still-healthy cats – and a hint to cat food makers to formulate their products with an eye toward averting kidney disease.

Veterinary researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands cited levels of arachidonic acid, or AA, in plasma cholesteryl esters (too much) and eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, in cats adipose tissue (too little) as risk factors for eventual development of kidney disease. They propose: Fatty acid composition of cat foods should be determined and . . . if deemed necessary, the ingredient composition should be altered so that the content of EPA is raised and that of AA is lowered.

If the Dutch scientists findings are verified, watch for Healthy Kidney Kitty Bits on your grocers shelf.


Panning Vegan Diets
Veterinary researchers at Washington State and Tufts universities tested two commercially made vegan diets for cats – and found both to be nutritionally inadequate.

Vegan diets, which exclude meat, seafood, eggs, dairy products and all other animal products, have trouble meeting the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Cat Food Nutrient Profiles, the scientists acknowledged early on in their report, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (Vol. 225, No. 11). They listed some of the nutritional eens that cats need – like taurine,  methionine, arginine and lysine – before stating: Feeding vegan diets to cats can only be justified when results of diet analysis and feeding trials document that these diets are nutritionally balanced and do not result in deficiencies when fed to cats.

And even though the labels of Diet A and Diet B claimed to meet AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles, the researchers said at the end of their analysis that neither diet did so. Cats cant read labels, and their human companions shouldnt believe everything they read, either.


Why Easter Lilies Arent Good for Cats
Those fragrant seasonal flowers, Easter lilies, have long been known to be poisonous to curious cats. Leave it to scientists at Michigan State University to figure out why – in a Journal of Diagnostic Investigation (Vol. 16, No. 6) article titled A comprehensive study of Easter lily poisoning in cats.

Just one or two leaves of certain Lilium plants – or a single lily flower – is enough to wreck a cats kidneys and cause it to die of acute renal failure.

Their description of kidney damage in cats sounds pretty gruesome: … swollen mitochondria, megamitochondria, edema and lipidosis. In other words, leave the lilies to the Easter Bunny.


When Cats Go Hunting
Still on the subject of things cats eat (or shouldnt), comes this casualty list from another Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association article (Vol. 225, No. 9) about felines versus wildlife. Among injured birds brought to a Walnut Creek, California rehabilitation center, doves were the most likely to fall prey to cats – followed by finches, jays, towhees and mockingbirds, in that order.