CSU Study Helps Felines Fight Anemia Induced by Kidney Failure

Have a cat with kidney failure? Colorado State University veterinarians are looking for cats with kidney failure – also called renal failure — for a study of new drug that has promise for treating conditions related to kidney failure. These studies aim to treat low red blood cell counts, called anemia, in cats with kidney failure. Anemia can speed progression of kidney failure, shortening a cat’s life, and make them feel weak and lethargic.

Cats diagnosed with stage three to four kidney failure and who meet qualifying guidelines for the study would receive a $600 stipend in addition to free examinations, blood work, blood pressure and heart evaluation to monitor progress and response.
Cats enrolled in the study would be treated with a red blood cell stimulating substance called erythropoietin that has been specifically developed for cats. Erythropoietin is a natural substance produced by the kidneys that stimulates the bone marrow to produce red blood cells, helping cats with kidney failure feel much better and often prolonging survival. The currently available human erythropoietin loses effectiveness over time when given to cats and has to be administered several times per week.

“This study involves a feline erythropoietin engineered for longer-lasting benefits,” said Dr. Michael Lappin, a veterinarian at the university’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital with feline kidney disease expertise. “It has already been tested in about 20 cats and, on average, it helped increase red blood cell levels by at least 25 percent after a single dose. Initial information shows that the benefits of treatment last at least a month and there were no side effects.”

Cats in the study would receive a single dose of erythropoietin and their blood chemistry and blood pressure would be measured weekly to monitor results. The university’s research team would collect blood samples at the homes of participants, at their regular vet clinic, or owners can bring their cats to the VTH.

Renal failure in cats is an extremely common ailment, causing the eventual loss of kidney function over several months or years. Among several concerns, kidney failure causes the buildup of toxins in blood. Symptoms of the disease in cats include weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, loss of appetite, vomiting, difficulty urinating and a dull or ill-kept coat.

For more information about enrollment, contact Dr. Jessica Quimby at jquimby@colostate.edu or Dr. Lappin at 970-221-4535.