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Kidney Disease In Cats

Progressive kidney disease (known as Chronic Renal Failure) is common in cats and the earlier it is detected, the quicker it can be treated. The progress of the disease can be slowed, in many cases leading to the cat to deliver quality of life for several years after diagnosis.

What do the kidneys actually do?

The kidneys are the organs in the body that remove waste products and extra water from the bloodstream. These waste products are removed from the body in a form of urine. The products are made up of the normal breakdown of active muscle and from the food that your cat eats. Once the body has taken nutrients and what it needs from the food, to use as energy and also to self-repair, the waste is sent to the blood where is filtered through the kidneys and into the urine. The kidneys also have some other important functions. They regulate the body's level of minerals for example sodium, phosphorus and potassium. They also assist in blood pressure regulation.

What causes kidney disease in cats?

Any abnormality or disorder which can cause damage to the kidneys is referred to as kidney disease. The damage caused to the kidneys is usually irreversible. There can be many causes for kidney damage including infection, tumours, poisoning and injury. There are other factors that can make cats more prone to kidney disease these include:

  • Age - cats that are older have a greater chance of developing kidney disease, in fact between ages of 10 and 15 the chances are actually doubled.
  • Diet - if the cat has an underlying problem of kidney disease and is fed a food high in protein and phosphorus, this can exacerbate the condition.
  • Breed - some cat breeds have been found to be more likely show signs of kidney disease more than others, these breeds are; Siamese; Persian; Abyssinian; Burmese; Main Coon; Russian Blue.
  • Environment - as stated poisoning can inflict severe kidney damage, cats who find access to chemicals such as antifreeze, some disinfectants, paints containing lead among others are at very high risk, should they be ingested. Certain types of drugs can also damage cat's kidneys.

What are the symptoms of kidney disease in cats?

The problem with kidney disease is your cat may not show any warning signs in the early stages and that the symptoms of serious illness only appear in advanced stages. In fact when your cat shows serious signs, three quarters of the kidneys function may have already been lost. Should your cat display an increased thirst it is important to seek veterinary advice. Other signs to look out for include:/p>

  • Reluctance to eat
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Increased urine production
  • Bad breath
  • Sore mouth
  • Lack of energy
  • Increased sleeping pattern
  • General weakness
  • Pale gums
  • Some cats prefer to sleep on cool surfaces, such as kitchen and bathroom floors.
How is kidney disease in cats diagnosed?

Because many of the symptoms can also be displayed with other conditions, the veterinary surgeon will likely want to take a blood test from the cat. This is performed by taking a sample from either the jugular vein in the neck or cephalic vein in cats leg. A kidney profile tested in the laboratory can give a definitive diagnosis of the disease. Many veterinary centres are able to test this in their own laboratory, making diagnosis much quicker.

What treatments are available for cats diagnosed with kidney disease?

Because kidney disease is progressive, it cannot be cured, only managed. Support can be given in several ways:

  • Specific drug therapy - There are drugs that are licensed in cats which can help stabilise the condition. Benazepril - is an ACE Inhibitor which means it dilates the blood vessels. In cats it has been found to help reduce protein loss in the urine, therefore assisting the kidneys. One other benefit of using this drug is that he can help increase appetite in the cat - in fact some veterinary surgeons might even give steroids to try and increase the cat's appetite.
  • Antibiotic drug therapy - in quite a few cases of the condition, cats may also display signs of secondary infection, this naturally puts a greater strain on the body's organs. Antibiotics may be given to help combat infection.
  • Fluid therapy - in severe cases of dehydration and where the cat refuses to eat, the veterinary surgeon may suggest placing the cat on a drip. Whilst hospitalised the animal can undergo intensive nursing care and be tempted to eat normally.
  • Diet -The main support for cats diagnosed with the condition is helping the kidneys work effectively. This is why diet is very important and the veterinary surgeon might recommend a prescription diet, specifically made for cats suffering kidney disease. These diets have the right balance of nutrient content and are available as both wet and dry food. They also have controlled levels of protein, phosphorus and sodium, which are important in supporting the kidney function. If the cat is to be fed this type of diet, then they will to be on this food for the rest of their lives.

What else can owners do to help cats with kidney disease?

Besides following that advice of the veterinary surgeon, owners can help support their cats in the following ways:

  • Making sure any prescribed medication is given regularly as directed
  • Always make sure there is provision of plenty of clean, fresh water - it is sometimes worth the owner placing several bowls around the house.
  • Keeping in contact with the vet at regular intervals.

If the owner is feeding a description renal diet then the following should also be observed:

  • Only feed the prescription diet and nothing else
  • Do not feed scraps or titbits as these may be high in salt
  • Try and make sure the cat does not scavenge for food

With sensible compliance owners, cats with kidney disease can stand a much better chance of survival. Any concerns regarding kidney function should be referred to a vet as a matter of urgency.


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