The Risks vs. Rewards of Cat Kidney Transplants

A cat kidney consists of the nephron which is the main functional unit of the kidney. Kidney failure also known as chronic renal failure (CRF) occurs due to several factors. If kidney failure is not treated, the kidney will no longer be able to eliminate toxins from the body and would lead to death. Kidney transplant is the only treatment that could potentially cure CRF in cats. Although the success rate for kidney transplants is high, there are a few risks involved.

Younger cats may be predisposed to renal failure due to inherited renal disease. Certain diagnostic tests show evidence of kidney disease or renal failure.

Signs of Kidney Failure in Cats:

  • High levels of waste product in blood.
  • High levels of blood urea nitrogen.
  • Improper serum creatinine concentrations.

Screening Tests Prior to Kidney Transplant:

  • Blood count
  • Ultrasound of the heart
  • Blood pressure
  • Urine tests
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Feline leukemia virus

Based on your cat's medical history the doctor may conduct several others tests to determine if your cat is a good candidate for kidney transplant.

Risks Involved in Cat Kidney Transplant

The cat's body needs to accept the newly transplanted kidney and will require immune system suppression for the rest of her life. Not only will the cat owner have to bear the cost of the post-operation medication but will need to physically give the cat lifelong oral medication. The medication known as cyclosporine has a few disadvantages. Cyclosporine is an expensive medicine. Ketaconazole has been used alongside cyclosporine to reduce the amount of cyclosporine administered and thereby reduce cost. Ketaconazole however, doesn't agree with certain cats and causes elevated liver enzyme levels. The level of cyclosporine in the blood has to be monitored carefully with periodic blood tests as the same dose of cyclosporine in two cats may indicate different serum levels.

Possible Complications of Feline Kidney Transplant:

  • Non-functioning of the transplanted kidney
  • Heart failure
  • Thrombosis
  • Urine leakage due to surgery
  • Graft rejection
  • Death

The most common complication is rejection. Immunosuppressive drugs are used to prevent acute rejection of the transplanted kidney. Some rejections may occur soon after surgery while others may occur even after 3 years. This is known as chronic rejection which in turn leads to graft vascular disease. After surgery some cats develop narrowing of the ureter. This requires another operation to be conducted. Apart from the challenges faced during and after the surgery, an important fact to consider before operating your pet is the cost of the surgery. Also once the surgery has been completed, the cat will be monitored at the hospital up to 3 weeks and post-operative care is essential.

Research shows that nearly 41 percent of feline kidney transplant patients are still alive 3 years after the operation. It's best to talk to the surgeons and decide on an appropriate course of action to help your pet survive.

Rewards of Kidney Transplant:

  • Since there isn't any cure for chronic renal failure (CRF), kidney transplants are an option for treating CRF.
  • After successful completion of surgery, cats could live up to 6 years and longer.
  • CRF is fatal and kidney transplant is the only way to prolong your pet's life.
  • The success rate of kidney transplant surgery is higher in cats not completely disabled due to CRF.
  • In time, successful kidney transplants can bring your cat back to normal playfulness.

The responsibility of conducting a feline transplant surgery lies wholly with the cat owner. It's essential to weigh the pros and cons of the operation to decide what's most suitable for you and your cat.