Slippery elm syrup to treat kidney failure in cats

Charlie Cat

By Cat, June 2017 (Photo, right, by Cat)

My cat Charlie has been showing signs of kidney trouble for a couple years:

  • always thirsty;
  • pees large volumes and frequently;
  • licks my container of epsom salt;
  • licks salty skin on my arms for several minutes, then repeats 30 minutes later;
  • prefers my salty water-softened tap water to my reverse osmosis filtered water unless I add unrefined sea salt or a tiny bit – just a few grains – of epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) to it;
  • has ‘Charlie horses’ in his hind legs, sometimes so severe he appears to be having a seizure;
  • his back is quite warm in the kidney area (just above his pelvis), indicating inflammation;
  • pulls out bits of fur on his back in area of kidneys (in attempt to kill the pain of inflammation);
  • is somewhat constipated, and has an upset stomach (pukes) at least once a week.

I finally got my vet to do a blood test. Yesterday, the results indicate elevated kidney markers, which means he has kidney trouble, and it may be kidney failure.

Treating Charlie for kidney trouble

I started adding unrefined sea salt and/or Ancient Earth Minerals (Fulvic acid complex) to his drinking water, and that has helped a little, making the Charlie horses less frequent. The recent blood test indicates kidney trouble. My vet wants to treat him with Hill’s Science Diet KD formula cat food, but years ago I treated my diabetic cat Marcel who peed excessively and frequently with the Science Diet CD and KD dry food formulas, and he got worse. These formulas contain grains and legumes which are not foods that a cat’s gut can deal with – as carnivores with a short intestine, their diet should be meat and animal fat. The first few ingredients of KD dry formula are: (2)

Brown Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken, Pork Fat, Whole Grain Wheat, Cracked Pearled Barley, Wheat Gluten, Chicken Liver Flavor, Pea Protein…..

Science Diet canned KD formula is a bit better, but still has some grain- and legume-derived ingredients. The first few ingredients of the KD Tuna formula are: (2)

Water, Chicken, Pork Liver, Brewers Rice, Tuna, Modified Rice Starch, Dried Whey, Chicken Liver Flavor, Soybean Oil, Fish Oil, Chicken Fat, Egg Product, Powdered Cellulose,…

So I decided to look into herbal treatment, and found an article on Natural News website, “Prevent or reverse kidney disease and renal failure in cats with Slippery Elm Bark” by JB Bardot (1). See also an article by Dr. Axe (6), and one on Healthfully (7).

Slippery elm bark, when mixed with water, forms a thick gruel that coats the walls of the digestive tract to relieve inflammation.  I”m not sure how this helps the kidneys, but a healthy gut is better at absorbing essential nutrients, and at removing undesirable molecules via the stool. I purchase powdered slippery elm bark at Swan Valley Herbs, a local business in my community that wildcrafts most of their herbs right here in Bigfork, Montana.

The Natural News article (1) says that while it can be dangerous to give a cat herbs (because their digestive system and enzymes are so different from the human system, that the herbs may poison them), slippery elm has proven to be an exception (3). The recommendation is to make a thick syrup from the slippery elm bark powder; it will keep in the fridge up to 5 days.

Caution: Be sure your source ethically and responsibly harvests their products, especially slippery elm, because elm trees in North America are being decimated by Dutch Elm Disease.

An alternative would be marshmallow root powder (3), but I’ve not verified it is safe for cats.

I’ve also recently learned that a common ingredient in most commercial pet food is sodium selenite, an inorganic form of the essential mineral, selenium. Unfortunately, this form of selenium is quite toxic and can harm several organs including the kidneys. See my post: Beware: Sodium Selenite in Pet Food is Toxic. Instead, look for pet food that uses selenium-yeast, an organic form of selenium that is healthful for your pet. Unfortunately, selenium yeast is not allowed in cat foods (by the AAFCO – Association of American Feed Control Officials – regulatory body for commercial pet foods).

This recipe is from the Natural News article by JB Bardot (1,3). It makes enough to fill 1½ bottles of 4 oz size, which is too much for 5 days worth for one cat taking 1 -2 droppers-ful 3 times each day. I also include a smaller recipe, as the original recipe makes far more than I need for my cat. See below for smaller recipe.

NOTE: this recipe involves cooking the herb in boiled water. I didn’t even use all of the half-bottle (at 1 dropper-full 3 times daily).

  1. Combine: 1 – 1 ½ tsp. of slippery elm powder (pack it down if it is fluffy, for accurate measurement) with 1 cup of cold water in a small glass or stainless steel saucepan.
  2. Dampen the powder by stirring, which helps avoid lumps.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil, and continue at a boil for about 3 minutes, stirring continually. Allow it to thicken to the consistency of maple syrup or molasses – or as described: a moderately thick gruel (3).
  4. Store in a dark-colored dropper bottle in a cool place for one day, or in the refrigerator no more than five days. Label and date the bottle.
  5. Dose: Give your cat ¼ to ½ teaspoon [1 – 2 droppers-full], up to 4 doses a day. Mix it with her food or straight if she’ll drink it. For the most difficult cats, squirt onto their paws during their bath time and they will lick it off. Or give it directly into cat’s open mouth via the dropper [1 dropper-full is about ¼ tsp].
  6. Delivery: If your cat is agitated, wrap its body in a heavy towel from neck to rear. With dropper’s tip submerged in the syrup, squeeze to draw syrup up as far as it will go. Then, with cat’s mouth open, squeeze dropper’s contents into back or side of mouth. (See instructions, above for details)

Made first batch 6/23/17; filled 1.5, 4-oz dropper bottles, but didn’t use the full bottle, nor all of the half-bottle in the 5 days, giving 2 doses (1 dropper-full each) daily. See below for smaller recipe.

Slippery elm syrup – 5 days worth for one cat

I’ve adapted this for one cat taking 1 dropper-ful 3 times daily. You can use a 2 oz dropper bottle.

  1. Combine: rounded ¼ tsp tsp. of slippery elm powder (pack it down if it is fluffy, for accurate measurement) with 2 Tbsp cold filtered water in a small glass or stainless steel saucepan; mix well until all the powder is in suspension, to avoid lumps. Add another 4 Tbsp cold filtered water and stir until combined. Use total ⅜  cup (6 Tbsp) of cold water.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, and continue at a boil for about 3 minutes, stirring continually. Allow it to thicken to the consistency of maple syrup or molasses – or as described: a moderately thick gruel (3). Add more water, 1 Tbsp at a time if too thick, and bring back to boil, stirring.
  3. Store in a dark-colored dropper bottle in a cool place for one day, or in the refrigerator no more than five days. Label and date the bottle.
  4. Dose: Give your cat ¼ to ½ teaspoon (1 – 2 droppers-full), up to 4 doses a day. Mix it with her food or straight if she’ll drink it. For the most difficult cats, squirt onto their paws during their bath time and they will lick it off. Or give it directly into cat’s open mouth via the dropper (1 dropper-full is about ¼ tsp); to do this, you need to hold the cat next to your body, while opening their mouth (ask a vet how best to do this) with one hand, and then squeeze the dropper’s contents into the mouth with the other hand.
  5. Delivery: With dropper’s tip submerged in the syrup, squeeze to draw syrup up as far as it will go. Then, with cat’s mouth open, squeeze dropper’s contents into back or side of mouth (See instructions, next, for details).

Delivery of the slippery elm syrup

I don’t think Charlie will eat his food if he smells the herb in it. He may lick it off his paws but will make a big mess in the process. So I will simply use the dropper to deliver it into his mouth. One dropper-full is about ¼ tsp. As it turns out, he actually loves the stuff and will reach out a paw to pull the dropper toward his mouth, when I pull the dropper away to put it back in the bottle. Then he licks the outside of the dropper.

For dropper-delivery (NOTE: I am right handed; do the opposite if you are left-handed):

  1. Cuddle him in your lap or on a table with his head to the right and his rear-end in the crook of your left elbow (if your cat fusses, wrap his body in a heavy towel from neck to rear to do this).
  2. With left hand over his head, and thumb and a finger on each side of his mouth, press downward to force his mouth open.
  3. Find  the spot on the side of his mouth where there is a gap between teeth; using your right hand, insert the dropper through the gap and release its contents.
  4. If needed, stroke his neck just below the chin to force him to swallow, especially if giving a pill; when giving a liquid, the cat will likely swallow it without forcing it. The first few times can be frustrating (and messy) until you get the hang of it.
  5. See Wiki-How (4) for illustrations and description; or YouTube video (5).

Testing with Charlie-Cat

Made first batch of this smaller recipe 6/27/17; filled 4-oz dropper bottle about half-full. Will begin using this bottle on 6/28.

The first day I gave him 2 doses, one in morning and one in evening; he objects to me holding his mouth open but opens his mouth willingly as the dropper approaches because he actually likes the stuff. After a few weeks, the heat in his kidney area was reduced, but he still is thirsty all the time and pees tons. I continued for 6 months and he seemed much better so I stopped making it.

10/20/18 update: Yesterday he pulled huge chunks of hair off his back in the kidney area, and he was quite warm there, indicating inflammation has returned. So I will resume giving him the slippery elm syrup. Made new batch and he loved it as much as always.

5/6/20 update: I had stopped giving him the slippery elm when I ran out of the powder several months ago. But his symptoms have worsened again, so I took him to the new vet in town. She said his condition has worsened a bit from the 2007 visit, but is not yet critical. So I’ve decided to restart the slippery elm treatment.

References:

  1. Natural News, “Prevent or reverse kidney disease and renal failure in cats with Slippery Elm Bark” by JB Bardot, February 20, 2012: naturalnews.com/035014_kidney_disease_cats_Slippery_Elm_Bark.html#
  2. Science Diet KD dry formula cat food: hillspet.com/en/us/products/pd-feline-kd-dry and hillspet.com/en/us/products/pd-feline-kd-tuna-canned
  3. Little Big Cat: Slippery Elm: littlebigcat.com/health/slippery-elm/
  4. Wiki How: wikihow.com/Open-a-Cat%27s-Mouth
  5. YouTube video: youtube.com/watch?v=cJh_zLpFF88
  6. draxe.com/pet-health/slippery-elm-for-pets/
  7. healthfully.com/553589-slippery-elm-bark-kidney-failure.html

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