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Feline Kidney Disease

Updated on March 19, 2009
Russian Blue by TCL 1961
Russian Blue by TCL 1961

Kidney Disease in Cats

Kidney disease can be divided into two different types- acute and chronic. Both types of kidney disease will result in kidney failure, but the onset has a different cause.

Acute kidney failure is a type of kidney disease that is characterized by complete organ failure where the kidneys stop working altogether. The onset of acute kidney failure is quite sudden, affecting cats of any age. Acute kidney failure is generally caused by ingesting a toxin, such as anti-freeze. This type of kidney disease is almost always fatal but if treated immediately and aggressively, the kidneys may regain normal functions and your cat may live a normal lifespan.

Chronic kidney failure is a the more common type of kidney disease in cats. This type of kidney disease is the decline of kidney function, caused by old age. Typically, by the time you notice it, about 70% of your cat's kidney functions will have been affected causing general health problems. Chronic kidney disease is progressive, and will result in death, but once diagnosed, you can manage the disease, keeping your cat in relatively good health for months, if not years.

Some cat breedsd are prone to developing kidney disease. The following cat breeds are most commonly seen with feline kidney diseaste.

  • Abyssinian
  • Burmese
  • Maine Coon
  • Persian
  • Russian Blue
  • Siamese

Signs of Kidney Failure

The symptoms will typically depend on how long your cat has had the problem and why his kidneys are failing. Some of the basic signs of kidney failure your cat will include the following:

  • Appetite loss
  • Bad breath
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Excessive urinating and drinking
  • Poor coat and skin
  • Seizures
  • Ulcers
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

by Dirty Bunny
by Dirty Bunny

Diagnosing Kidney Disease

If you think that you cat may have kidney disease, you should contact your vet as soon as possible to have your cat evaluated, especially since there are other feline disease that share the same signs. Your veterinarian will perform a blood and urine tests to check the amount of creatinine and phosphorous in your cat's blood and urine.

Blood Tests

A BUN blood test is very important, as it tests the blood urea nitrogen, which is a chemical that the liver makes from ammonia. After production, BUN is excreted into the kidneys, which increases in some diseases, to mark dehydration and urethral obstruction.

The creatinine is the breakdown product of muscle, which is excreted by the kidneys; it serves as an important marker of kidney functions, especially when the creatinine is high. High creatinine levels will also help determine whether elevated BUN levels is caused be the kidneys or not.

As for the phosphorous levels, they typically increase in cases of kidney failure.

Urine Tests

When looking at the urine, the veterinarian will check for signs of infection, the concentration, and any losses of proteins. Cats with healthy kidneys will have concentrated levels when they become dehydrated, but cats with kidney problems cannot concentrate their urine even though they are dehydrated, which is why urine tests are important in determining kidney function.

Normal Levels will vary lab to lab, but on average they are as follows.

  • BUN < 30 mg/dl
  • Creatinine < 2.2 mg/dl
  • Phosphorous < 5 mEq/l
  • Urine specific gravity > 1.018

Other tests

Some veterinarians will also take x-rays, perform an ultrasound, or palpitate the area, as cats with kidney problems will typically have shrunken and irregular kidneys.

by Squid!
by Squid!

Treating Feline Kidney Disease

The treatment of kidney disease is typically going to be to administer fluids in order to re-hydrate your cat, but this is also a great method of flushing toxins out. You can actually administer the fluids at home, versus put your cat through the stress of going to the vet.

Basically, you'll have to administer subcutaneous injections of a type of saline solution. If this is the course of treatment that you and your vet decide upon, your veterinarianwill teach you the proper procedure of injecting your cat, as well as how to care for the saline bags, needles, and sringes.

You will actually be surprised as to how the fluid injections will make your cat feel better. Being dehydrated makes your cat miserable, so the injections will definitely help your cat, and in some cases the cats actually look forward to their injections.

The entire process shouldn't take but about 10 to 15 minutes once you get the hang of it.

Just remember that immediately after the injection, your cat may have a soft, spongy area at the injection site, which is normal.

Your veterinarian will want to regularly re-check your cat's blood levels in order to adjust the fluid therapy, as needed.

There is no cure for Feline Kidney Disease besides having a total kidney transplant, but you can manage the disease with the home fluid therapy sessions.

Feline Kidney Disease Diet

Although, monitoring the diet is not a 100%, full-proof method of treating your cat, by altering your cat's diet, you can help with some of the problems associated with kidney disease.

You want to put your cat on a low-protein, low-phosphorous diet. Most holistic experts will recommend a homemade diet versus a commercial diet, even commercial diets formulated for kidney support.

If you opt to make a homemade diet for your cat, you want to consult your veterinarian to make sure that you provide all the proper nutrients for your cat, as you want to make sure that you are still about to provide proper nutrition.

If you would prefer to just stick with a commercial diet, as homemade diets can be rather costly and time consuming, you want to consider the following tips.

  • Add the low-protein diet to regular cat food add flavor and make the low-protein food more appetizing for the cat.
  • Try warming food with warm water to make it more appetizing.
  • Consider canned food instead of dry food since cats with kidney failure tend to dehydrate easier. The canned food has added water content.
  • Makes sure to have fresh water available at all times.

If you are looking for a commercial cat food made specically for kidney disease, consider the following. Just remember that they are mostly found via your veterinarian. You may be able to find Purina at the pet store.

  • Purina NF Kidney Function
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet Feline k/d
  • Royal Canin Renal formulas
  • Eukanuba Multi-Stage Renal Formula

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a veterinarian.

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