Kidneys are extremely important because they remove waste substances from the blood and maintain the normal balance of fluid and minerals in the body. Any disorder that damages the kidneys is referred to as kidney disease. In some cases cats may show early warning signs, but signs of serious illness only appear when three quaters of the kidney function has already been lost. Kidney disease is a common disorder in cats which can be congenital or acquired. When kidneys malfunction, wastes build up in the blood.

Symptoms Of Kidney Disease (Chronic Renal Failure):

A slow and progressive onset

  • Polydipsia (Increased Thirst)
  • Weakness
  • Sore Mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bad Breath
  • Weight Loss
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Polyuria (Increased Urine Production)
  • Enlarged Kidneys
It is important to note that an increase of thirst is the first sign of kidney failure, if you notice this, or any of the above symptoms, seek advice from your veterinarian immidiately.

What Causes Kidney Problems?

The kidneys can be damaged by a wide range of conditions, including infection, injury and cancer. Damage to the kidneys are usually irreversable. Kidney disease is very common in cats but with early diagnosis and treatment, progression can be limited and cats can live happily for years after diagnosis.

Causes of Acute Kidney Failure (Acute Renal Failure or ARF): Acute kidney failure is brought about by a sudden decline in kidney function.

  • Poisoning (ingestion of a toxic substance such as anti-freeze or poisonous plants)
  • Heatstroke
  • Blockage
  • Infection
  • Some medications
  • Dehydration
  • Cancer
Causes of Chronic Renal Failure: A slow and progressive onset
  • Diabetes
  • Infection
  • Hypertension
  • Dental disease
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Infections
  • Congenital defects
  • Cancer of the kidneys

Factors That Can Make Cats More Prone To Kidney Disease:

  • Age - the chances of cats developing kidney problems are increased from the age of 8 years
  • Diet - Careful control of the intake of phosphorus and protein in the food can slow the progression of kidney disease
  • Environmental factors - Some chemicals including disinfectants, anti-freeze, lead paints and alspo some drugs can damage the kidneys

How is kidney disease in cats diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination & take a medical history of your cat. Some tests he/she may run include;

  • Complete blood count
  • Biochemical profile. Elevated blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine are both indicative of renal failure.
  • Urinalysis will be able to provide additional information on the extent of kidney damage, urine-concentrating ability & if an infection is present in the urinary tract.
  • Urine specific gravity: This test is to check to see how concentrated the urine is.
  • Kidney ultrasound or X-ray
  • Kidney biopsy
How is kidney disease in cats treated?
  • Fluids - Administration of fluids subcutaneously to treat dehydration & electrolyte imbalances.
  • Prescription diet - These diets contains a lower percentage of protein and less phosphorus than normal cat food. Cats need protein every day for growth, building muscles and repairing tissue. After the body uses the protein in the foods, a waste product called urea is made. Cats with kidney failure are not able to get rid of this urea normally. Damaged kidneys may not be able to remove phosphorus from the blood. This causes the level of phosphorus in the blood to become too high. A high blood phosphorus level may cause the cat to lose calcium from their bones.
  • Phosphorus binders - Phosphate is an abundant mineral in the body. Together, calcium & phosphate work closely to build & repair bones & teeth. Around 85% of phosphate is found in the bones, the remaining 15% is stored in the cells where it is responsible for energy metabolism as well as being an integral structural component of DNA & RNA. Excess phosphate is filtered by the kidneys & excreted in the urine. As the kidneys begin to fail, they are less able to get rid of excess phosphate, and levels begin to build up. A high blood phosphorus level may cause the cat to lose calcium from their bones. Your veterinarian may recommend phosphate binders in conjunction with a phosphate restricted diet to slow the progression of kidney failure.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) - Medication which helps reduce blood pressure, these are usually calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors & diuretics. The calcium channel blocker amlodipine is most often prescribed. Medications won't cure high blood pressure, but will assist in controlling it.
  • Antacids & anti nausea medication.
  • Erythropoeitine - The kidneys produce a hormone, erythropoietin, which instructs the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Cats with kidney failure often have a low red blood cell count. Only the human form is available & some cats may eventually recognise this substance as foreign & antibodies will be created against it


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