Kidney Failure in Cats
All dogs and cats should have 2 kidneys, just like people. The kidneys play a vital role by eliminating waste products that build up in the body, keeping good products in the body, and managing electrolyte levels and red blood cell production. Kidney failure, also called renal failure, occurs when these jobs are no longer being performed.Continue reading to learn about the types of kidney failure, signs of kidney failure in cats, and available treatment options.
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
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Types of Kidney Failure in Cats
The two main types of kidney failure in cats are acute kidney failure and chronic kidney failure.
Acute kidney failure is a condition that occurs quickly and is often a result of a toxin ingestion or infection.
Chronic kidney failure is a gradual process and is most common in older animals. Occasionally, very young cats develop kidney failure, which is often the result of a condition they were born with, called congenital kidney failure. Persian cats are prone to a congenital kidney disease called Polycystic Kidneys.
Acute Kidney Failure in Cats
Signs of Acute Kidney Failure
Cats with acute kidney failure typically show signs of severe lethargy, vomiting, and reduced appetite. They may be drinking and urinating a lot or not at all.
Causes of Acute Kidney Failure
One of the most common causes of acute kidney failure in cats is ingestion of toxins, such as eating part of a lily plant. Various drugs can also cause kidney failure in certain pets. Severe infections or illnesses like sepsis or pancreatitis can also lead to acute kidney failure.
Treatment of Acute Kidney Failure
Acute kidney failure is a serious condition. Aggressive and quick treatment to support the kidneys and manage the underlying cause can be life-saving. Treatment typically consists of hospitalizing your cat and keeping them on IV fluids, administering anti-nausea medications, administering antibiotics if needed, and ensuring they receive proper nutrition. The treatment may take days to weeks. Rechecking blood work and urine tests will help your vet monitor your cat’s response to treatment.
Chronic Kidney Failure in Cats
Signs of Chronic Kidney Failure
Older cats are more prone to developing chronic kidney failure. Since this is a slow, progressive process, your cat may not show symptoms immediately. You may notice weight loss or muscle mass loss even though your cat is eating well. You might also notice your cat drinking and urinating more than usual. There will be larger urine clumps or pools in the litter box.
Diagnosing Chronic Kidney Failure
Early stages of chronic kidney disease can be diagnosed with routine yearly blood work and urine tests before clinical symptoms even develop. If your vet suspects kidney failure, they will recommend basic blood work, urinalysis (urine test), and blood pressure measurements to help diagnose kidney failure, stage the kidney failure, and discuss proper treatments and supportive care.
Kidney failure is staged in 4 levels, with Stage 1 being the mildest and Stage 4 being the most severe.
Treatment of Chronic Kidney Failure
Once your vet has diagnosed and staged your cat’s kidney failure, treatment will be discussed. Options can range from medications that lower blood pressure, treatment to reduce protein loss in the urine, intravenous or subcutaneous fluids, potassium replacement, medications to help improve red blood cell levels, and dietary changes.
There are a variety of prescription kidney supportive diets available. These diets can help your cat feel better and live longer, often for years, depending on the stage of kidney failure your cat is experiencing. Since cats can be picky eaters, you may need to try a variety of diets to find one they enjoy, so don’t be discouraged if they refuse a few types!
Encouraging your cat to drink more water will also help support the kidneys. Canned foods contain more fluids compared to dry kibble, so feeding your cat canned food and eliminating the kibble may be recommended. Cats also like to drink from moving water, so purchasing a recirculating water bowl might also entice them to drink more.
If you’d like to learn more about kidney failure in cats, please review the comprehensive set of articles on the Veterinary Partner website.
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