Advanced Kidney Failure in Cats

Kidney failure in cats is one of the most common geriatric cat diseases. Often the disease progresses gradually over time. Treatment can improve your cat's quality of life and lengthen his life by slowing down the progression of the disease.

Causes of Chronic Renal Failure in Cats

Cats of any breed or age can develop kidney failure, but it's most common in cats older than eight years of age. Some vets believe that as many as 20% of geriatric cats are suffering from progressive renal failure.

Kidney failure occurs in cats who have suffered long term, irreversible kidney damage. This renders the kidneys unable to filter and remove waste and toxins from the blood. Vets often diagnose renal failure without really knowing what has caused it. Some common causes of feline kidney failure include:

  • Kidney tumors, whether cancerous or benign
  • Bacterial infection, which can badly damage the kidneys
  • Polycystic kidney disease, a condition common to Persians and other Asian breeds in which cysts form in the kidneys
  • Congenital kidney defects
  • Ingestion of toxins

If an underlying condition can be diagnosed, treatment of this condition is usually all that's needed to slow down or even stop the progression of kidney failure in cats.

Symptoms of Chronic Feline Renal Failure

For the most part, renal failure is a chronic disease in which symptoms develop very slowly, but sometimes kidney failure in cats can occur quickly. Symptoms are often non-specific and easily confused with the symptoms of many other systemic disorders.

Common signs of kidney failure in cats include lack of appetite, dehydration, weight loss, depression and lethargy. They may demonstrate excessive thirst and may urinate excessively as their damaged kidneys struggle to filter toxins from the blood. Bad breath, mouth ulcers, severe weakness and vomiting may all be signs of chronic renal failure in cats. Symptoms of kidney disease will worsen as time passes.

Diagnosing and Treating Chronic Feline Renal Failure

Your vet will need blood and urine samples to diagnose chronic renal failure. If your vet is able to identify the cause of renal failure, then he'll be able to treat it by treating the cause. Otherwise, your vet will offer supportive therapy in hopes of easing your cat's discomfort and prolonging his life.

Your cat may require IV fluids at first to restore his electrolyte balance and reverse the effects of dehydration. Once your cat's condition is stablized, your vet will recommend a treatment program aimed at supporting kidney function while minimizing the complications of advanced feline kidney failure.

Dietary Control for Cats with Chronic Kidney Failure

Cats suffering from chronic renal failure need to follow strict diets, in order to support kidney function and minimize dangerous complicatons. They'll need to drink plenty of water, and should be fed only moist foods. They'll also need a low protein diet, which can be difficult, since they won't want to eat it. Offer a variety of foods to make this diet more appealing.

Your cat will also need a diet low in phospates, since this seems to prevent further kidney damage in cases of chronic renal failure. If dietary measures fail to lower your cat's blood phosphate levels, medication can help.