Posted on: May 2nd, 2014 by Dr. Dale Rubenstein

Of course, there is no Fountain of Youth. At least not that has been discovered yet. But new advances in veterinary medicine occur all the time, and research can show new ways to help your cat slow some of the effects of aging on their bodies.

For over 10 years, there has been a debate about the value of calcitriol, a form of Vitamin D, in helping slow the progression of kidney disease in cats. But until recently, there was not a lot of research proving its benefits. Some veterinarians thought it “helped cats feel better” – not a bad thing, but if I didn’t feel strongly that it would definitely help one of our feline patients, it was hard to recommend one more medication.

But, recent research is showing that in fact, calcitriol can help slow the progression of kidney disease as well as help to prevent anemia, which often occurs in cats with kidney disease.

When we prescribe calcitriol, we call a compounding pharmacy to formulate a liquid form of the medicine, that you can pick up or have shipped directly to you. Vitamin D is oil-soluble, so the liquid is in an oil base, but the pharmacy can add chicken, tuna or beef flavoring. Also, calcitriol can be given just twice weekly (or a smaller amount daily, whichever is easier).

The caveat with calcitriol is monitoring calcium and phosphorus levels, because in later stages of kidney disease, excess levels of calcium/phosphorus can cause other problems. We will need to recheck labs about a month after starting calcitriol, but if calcium and phosphorus levels remain normal, then just routine follow-up is needed going forward.

I used calcitriol on my own cat, Minnie, who had early/Stage I kidney disease. Minnie also had Inflammatory Bowel Disease and was unable to eat any of the kidney diets. But, the calcitriol did keep her at Stage I, without progression of kidney disease, for over 2 years (until she developed other problems at age 16).

So, if we’ve not mentioned using calcitriol and you are interested in trying it with your cat, please let us know!