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How to treat cat kidney failure?

Grey cat drinking water advice
© Shutterstock

The kidneys in a feline play an important role in maintaining health. Chronic and acute renal failure can lead to serious complications. But how to best treat cat kidney failure?

By Dawn Parrish

Why are the kidneys important?

The kidneys play a vital role in keeping your cat healthy. They not only regulate the bloodstream but also control blood pressure. In addition, the kidneys remove metabolic waste from the blood and produce important red blood cells enzymes and hormones. If the kidneys are not capable of doing their job efficiently, serious life-threatening health implications are in store for the cat.

Cat kidney failure – the common causes

In most cases, when a cat becomes seriously ill, the cause can frequently be renal failure. This is often the case in older cats. The two categories of kidney failure in felines are:

No 1. Acute renal failure – symptoms usually manifest over 7 days or even a month

No 2. Chronic renal failure – signs are present for a long period of time

The risk to a cat of kidney failure is raised in specific breeds, such as Angoras and Persian cats.

Cat with kidney failure treatment
Dialysis or surgery are treatment options for kidney failure in cats © Shutterstock

Possible causes of cat kidney failure

# Decreased urine or blood flow to the kidneys

# Raised blood pressure

# Cancer

# Kidney stones causing an obstruction

# Ingestion of poisons – cleaning chemicals, medications, pesticides and anti-freeze

# Severe cases of dental disease

# Genetic predisposition to the disease – such as with Angoras and Persian breeds

# A cat older than 7 years

# Cats that live outdoors are generally exposed to more toxins and therefore at a higher risk

What is Cat kidney failure and disease?

Chronic kidney failure is one of the leading reasons for death and illness in senior cats. Also known as CRF (Chronic Renal failure). However, it’s more prevalent in older cats. Owners need to be alert to spot early symptoms of this terrible disease.

What are the clinical symptoms of chronic kidney disease?

Willows Veterinary Surgery gives the following advice on the symptoms to look out for:

"Very often increased thirst and increased urine production are the first signs of chronic kidney disease. Affected animals cannot concentrate their urine normally so the urine can look diluted, sometimes almost like water. Many owners observe that their pet seems subdued and weaker than usual. Decreased appetite, weight loss, halitosis (bad breath), vomiting and a sore mouth can be observed in more severely affected cases."

When the kidneys stop carrying out routine functions the contamination in the cat’s blood of toxic waste products, builds up. Chronic kidney disease, also known as CKD can occur. Because the kidneys are very efficient organs, your cat will carry on as normal until she only has around 25% working kidney function. Likewise, ongoing damage over a period of weeks or months can have a serious impact on her kidneys.

Cat kidney failure treatment

As previously mentioned, kidney disease isn’t usually noticed in cats until 75% of function has ceased. However, if early diagnosis is made and treatment is given, acute renal failure can often be avoided. In worst cases and in senior cats, chronic kidney failure is an incurable health condition. Due to this, it is almost always treated with palliative care. Cat kidney disease treatment medication might be prescribed to control blood pressure and a transplant or dialysis could be an option.

Treatment options for advanced kidney failure

In some cases of advanced kidney failure, there are other treatment options. In an older cat, when the kidneys have reached this stage because of ageing, they will never repair. However, the cat can still have sufficient kidney function. Treatment can be given to “restart” the kidneys. They are flushed out with a large amount of intravenous fluids. This diuresis process will stimulate the kidney cells and kick-start them into action. If sufficient kidney cells remain that are actually functional, this may be sufficient for the removal of waste. Medication will be given to replace potassium and various electrolytes. A low protein, high-quality diet will be suggested to reduce the waste products.

Cat with kidney failure treatment
Intravenous fluids can help a cat with kidney failure © Shutterstock

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee from this treatment that the kidneys will resume their normal function. Neither are there any tests that will reliably predict the outcome.

End-stage feline renal disease

Treatment and medication may prolong the function of the cat’s kidneys for some time. Inevitably though, the kidney function deteriorates and the kidneys will fail. The cat will become quite ill and there will be no chance of further treatment. This stage is called the end stage of kidney disease.

Regular check-ups are necessary

A medical assessment when you notice your cat displaying symptoms of kidney disease, is important. This makes a difference in the early diagnosis of the illness. An annual screening of the cat at her check-up will determine any health problems.

When a cat is diagnosed with kidney disease or related problems, there is a wide range to be covered. Each patient can have a different collection of issues and be at a different stage of the illness. Some treatments will require only a change in diet, whereas others may need hospitalisation. Final prognosis depends on many different aspects and elements. The bottom line is – each case is very different.