Kidney disease is a leading cause of premature death in domestic cats, and it is estimated that sixteen in every thousand cats seen by veterinarians in the U.S. suffer from the condition. Chronic kidney disease, also sometimes referred to as CKD or CRF (chronic renal failure), most often occurs as a result of the ageing process, when the kidneys naturally start deteriorating. Unfortunately, this damage is irreversible.
Whether your feline friend has just recently been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, or she has been battling the condition for some time, here is everything you need to know to manage the condition and keep your pet happy, healthy and comfortable for as long as possible
What do the kidneys do?
Your cat’s kidneys have a number of extremely important functions. These include:
- Stimulating the bone marrow to make more red blood cells
- Making specific hormones
- Maintaining fluid balance within the body
- Managing blood pressure
- Regulating electrolytes within the body
- Removing waste from the blood via the urine
As the kidneys start to deteriorate, their ability to perform these functions is compromised. As such, your cat will start to display symptoms that indicate that there is a health problem in play.
Why does my cat have kidney disease?
Kidney disease is much more prevalent in older cats, as a result of the natural age-related deterioration of the function of these organs. However, it can also be caused by other medical problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Advanced dental problems
- Obstructions such as kidney stones
- Exposure to a toxic substance such as antifreeze or chemicals
- A diet high in phosphorus and/or poor quality protein
- Decreased flow of blood/urine to the kidneys
- Some types of cancer
It is important to note that some breeds of cat, including Angoras and Persians, have a genetic predisposition to developing kidney disease earlier in life.
Symptoms of feline chronic kidney disease
Because chronic kidney failure is a gradual and progressive condition, the symptoms are often not apparent in the earliest stages. Instead they may start to creep in once the function of the kidneys is moderately affected by the condition.
By far the most common symptom of kidney problems is increased thirst and urination. The kidneys are responsible for maintaining the balance of fluids within the body, and when this function is compromised, your kitty may start drinking and urinating a great deal more. A previously well house-trained cat may also start ‘going’ outside of her litter box.
Other signs that may indicate that your cat is suffering from kidney problems include:
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Recurrent bacterial infections of the bladder and kidneys
- Bad breath, often smelling like ammonia
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Ulcers in the mouth, particularly on the tongue and gums
- Tongue seems brown in color
- Dry, poor-quality coat
- Weakness and lethargy
How is kidney disease in cats diagnosed?
Only a qualified and experienced veterinarian can make an accurate diagnosis of chronic kidney disease. To do this, your Herschel Animal Clinic will require your cat to undergo testing including urine and blood tests, and likely an x-ray or ultrasound of your cat’s kidneys. In some instances, a biopsy of the soft tissue of your cat’s kidneys may also be necessary. Using the results of these tests, and information about your feline’s symptoms and general health, your vet will be able to provide a diagnosis and advise you how far the disease has progressed.
Is it possible to treat feline kidney disease?
Although the damage that is done to the kidneys is irreversible, there are treatments which can help deal with associated conditions that cats with kidney problems may develop, which include anaemia and high blood pressure. Making changes to your feline’s diet has also been proven to be effective in managing the condition. Dietary changes
Cats are carnivores. This means that the primary ingredient in their food should be protein. However, the protein in regular meat and fish can be difficult for your cat’s kidneys to process, and as such, your vet may recommend switching your cat to a special, renal diet that is designed to support kidney health and function. The protein in food marketed for feline kidney disease is highly digestible, meaning that there is very little waste for the kidneys to process. This type of protein is also lower in phosphorus and essential fatty acids. These work as natural anti-inflammatories, which help to keep your cat’s kidneys healthier.
Kidney disease will also cause your cat to urinate much more frequently, so you should ensure that she has access to fresh water at all times to prevent her from becoming dehydrated. Medications
The Veterinarians at Herschel Animal Clinic may recommend a number of different medications that target the side effects of kidney disease. This include medications that lower blood pressure, reduce nausea and vomiting, treat ulcers and treat anemia. Kidney transplant
In some cases, a kidney transplant may be possible. However, this is extremely rare.
If you are at all concerned that your feline could be suffering from kidney problems, seek the advice of your veterinarian at Herschel Animal Clinic immediately. By catching CKD early enough, you can make changes which will slow the progression of the condition and enable your cat to live a longer, happier and healthier life.