Feline Kidney Disease Diagnosis and Treatment

A common feline disease found in older cats is kidney disease; however, this disease can strike at any age or breed. It is not necessarily fatal given the proper care, medication and nutrition.

Two Categories Of Kidney Disease

Acute Renal Failure (ARF) results in the sudden shutdown of kidney function possibly due to a blockage of the urinary tract, trauma, infection or the ingestion of a toxic substance. Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) is the progressive deterioration of the kidneys functioning properly.

Causes of kidney disease:
  • Fungal, viral or bacterial infections
  • Parasites
  • Inflammation or autoimmune diseases
  • Age
  • Inherited disorders
  • Cancer
  • Exposure to toxins including poisons or medications
  • Trauma
  • Amyloidosis (abnormal protein deposits in the kidney)

Symptoms of Feline Kidney Disease

Some of the following symptoms are indicative of other diseases so tests are necessary to determine the cause of these symptoms. For instance, a cat vomiting may be an indication of just some food that is disagreeable and not necessarily an indication of kidney disease.
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased/decreased/lack of urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Decreased appetite and/or weight loss
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Poor or unkempt hair
  • Hunched over posture with reluctance to move
  • Tenderness in the abdomen
  • Withdrawal behavior

Diagnosing Kidney Disease in Cats

A physical examination may reveal any of the following signs:
  • Enlarged and/or painful kidneys or small, irregular kidneys
  • Ulcers in the mouth (on cheek, gums or tongue)
  • Dehydration
  • High blood pressure accompanied with changes in the retina
  • Bad breath
  • Swelling of the limbs and/or abdomen due to fluid retention
  • Softening of the jaw bones
  • Anemia, indicated by pale mucous membranes

Blood work and urinalysis will confirm the disease. Elevated levels of blood urea, phosphorous, nitrogen and creatinine are general indications of kidney failure. A blood count is also done to check for anemia and infections. X-rays and ultrasound will determine the extent of the disease. Blood work and urinalysis are recommended as part of an annual examination once a cat reaches the age of 7.

Treating Kidney Disease

Though there is no complete cure for feline kidney disease, cats can live a long and productive life with proper treatment. Routine check-ups to the veterinarian should be 3, 6 or 12 months apart depending upon the severity of the disease and the cat's response to treatment. Medications, such as antibiotics, may be needed to fight any infections causing the kidney failure or to maintain blood pressure. Fluids including given intravenously may be necessary. A prescribed cat diet low in protein but of high quality, salt and phosphorous will result in less waste produced and therefore decreased stress on the kidneys. This is usually found in canned foods with vitamins, fatty acids and electrolytes.

Kidney disease is manageable with proper care and treatment including a kidney transplant for the most severe cases; however, sometimes it is necessary for euthanasia if the pain and discomfort is not alleviated.