Why is it recommended to feed senior cats low-fat, low-sodium treats?

As always, prevention is better than treatment. So even if your senior cat is currently healthy, you want to avoid potential health problems, including hypernatremia, weight gain, high blood pressure, kidney problems, and more.

The way to do that is to be sure her treats are low-fat and low-sodium.

• Hypernatremia is an electrolyte imbalance, a term used to describe sodium toxicity. When a cat’s serum sodium concentration reaches a specific level, the animal’s blood is considered toxic.

Cats have naturally low thirst drives because they are programmed (by their ancestors who lived in the wild) to fulfill most of their water requirements by eating fresh raw food and their urine can become too concentrated. They drink even less as they age and, that, combined with too much sodium, is a recipe for sodium toxicity in the blood.

Hypernatremia is caused by extreme water loss and, that, combined with excessive salt intake can cause too much salt in the blood. Symptoms include blindness, seizures, dehydration and death, if left untreated. Swift administration of fluids is often necessary.

• Weight gain. Just like humans, any pet’s metabolism slows with age, leaving them susceptible to weight gain which, in turn, results in chronic diseases.

Sometimes the effects of certain types of diabetes can induce hypernatremia, another good reason to keep the treats low in fat and sodium.

• High-blood pressure often affects older cats that have a pre-existing condition such as hyperthyroidism or kidney. High blood pressure adversely affects a cat’s heart and kidneys as well as the multitude of blood vessels throughout the body. Increased pressure of the blood circulating weakens the vessels, causing potential ruptures that are commonly seen with vision issues in untreated cases.

• Kidney: The most common cause of kidney failure in cats is old age. While there’s no guarantee of avoiding it, you can lessen the likelihood of kidney disease occurring by keeping sodium within the acceptable levels and increasing fluids to maintain electrolyte balance and to be sure toxins are flushed out. The best advice is to work closely with your veterinarian.

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