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Kidney disease

Kidney disease is common in cats. If diagnosed early we can improve your cat's quality of life and delay progression with diet and, occasionally, medication.

Overview

The kidneys play a vital role in maintaining good health. They are responsible for controlling blood pressure, regulating chemical balance within the bloodstream, producing some hormones and enzymes, ensuring adequate red blood cell production and removing waste products.

In kidney disease, toxic wastes can accumulate in the bloodstream affecting many systems within the body.

There are two categories of kidney disease:

  1. Acute kidney failure - occurs over days or weeks in cats of any age
  2. Chronic kidney failure - occurs over months and years, usually in older cats

Some individuals of the long hair breeds, such as the Persian, are born with polycycstic kidney disease that progresses as they age.

Signs

Common signs of kidney disease:

  • Increased water consumption
  • Increase urination - wetter litter
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Bad breath
  • Oral ulceration

Causes

Common causes of acute renal failure:

  • Poisoning especially consumption of lilies 
  • Stones in the kidneys or ureters
  • Bladder stones that cause complete blockage
  • Blocked urethra or bladder causing urine to bank up and damage the kidneys

Common causes of chronic renal failure:

  • Usually unknown
  • Long-term, severe dental disease
  • Infection
  • Tumours of the kidneys
  • Inflammation
  • Obstructions from stones or tumours
  • Chronic dehydration from a diet of dry food only is thought to contribute to kidney failure

Diagnosis

Diagnosis relies on a full history, physical examination, bloodwork, urinalysis, ultrasound, X-rays or biopsy.

Management

Acute renal failure requires immediate, emergency care. Full recovery is possible if treatment is administered early.

Chronic kidney disease is incurable and is often not detected until much of the kidney tissue is not functioning. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the prognosis. When managed well your cat may survive for quite a few years.

Management of chronic renal failure:

  • Dietary modification is the cornerstone of management. Protein and phosphorus restriction, addition of potassium and omega-3 fatty acids nurse the kidneys and body systems along
  • Encourage more fluid consumption - fresh water in clean bowls replaced daily, water fountains, water added to wet foods, chicken stock added to water
  • High blood pressure medication if blood pressure increases
  • Potassium supplements to minimise muscle weakness, constipation and loss of appetite as indicated by regular blood checks
  • Phosphate reducers
  • Fluid therapy (intravenous or subcutaneous) if dehydrated
  • Appetite stimulants
  • Erythropoietin injections