Diagnosing Feline Kidney Disease

Feline kidney disease, also known as feline chronic renal failure, is a disease which is progressive and almost always terminal. The kidneys serve important functions for the body and when they are no longer working properly, the cat's body can become contaminated with toxins and waste products. Not all cats will show symptoms of feline kidney disease and more importantly, symptoms will not likely show up until this disease is far advanced. The kidneys will maintain proper functioning at only 30% capacity, so once you begin to see symptoms, it's likely that 70% or more of the kidneys are no longer operational. The most apparent symptoms of this disease are a general feeling of illness and malaise.

Early Symptoms of Feline Kidney Disease

Early symptoms will generally include increased thirst coupled with excessive urination. This is caused when urine is no longer appropriately concentrated with toxins. The body must work harder at eliminating harmful waste products and therefore produces larger amounts of 'weaker' urine to try and handle the job. Additional symptoms that may begin to show up are weight loss due to loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting or evidence of a poor hair coat. As the disease progresses, the cat may experience dehydration, drooling, grinding or cracking in the jaw, hunching, gastritis, emaciation, ammonia smell on the breath, oral ulcers, detached retina or odd behaviors such as eating cat litter or hunching over the water or food bowl.

Diagnosing Feline Kidney Disease

There are a number of diseases and conditions which lead to symptoms similar to that of feline kidney disease. Once these signs begin to show, it's important to have a urinalysis done as soon as possible. If the cat's urine is diluted, an indication is made that the kidneys are not properly delivering waste from the body. Blood tests can determine levels of BUN, or blood urea nitrogen, and creatinine. When creatinine levels are high, a determination of feline kidney disease can almost always be made.

Treatment and Management

While there is currently no cure for feline kidney disease, proper treatment and management of diet, medication and hydration therapy can prolong and maintain the disease effectively. The purpose behind treatment is to reduce the amounts of waste that the kidneys are required to produce. Introduction of a low protein diet has been shown to benefit cats with this condition. It's important to research food quality, however, as some ingredients may have little to no benefit, and may even cause additional problems. Potassium supplements may help to replace nutrients which have been lost and help the function of the kidneys. Subcutaneous fluids may be necessary and you can learn to administer these at home. There are a number of additional medications that may be suggested. Feline kidney disease affects other systems within the body and therefore blood pressure, stomach acid, phosphates, appetite and various other nutrients and minerals may need to be controlled or regulated.