Feline Renal Amyloidosis Explained

Feline renal amyloidosis is a rare disease caused by deposits of abnormal proteins in the kidneys, resulting in decreased function and eventual organ failure. In a healthy cat, antibodies produced to fight infections are broken down by the body. Feline amyloidosis occurs when irregular antibody proteins are created that cannot be broken down.

These plaque-like amyloids travel through an affected cat's bloodstream, to the kidneys and sometimes the liver and spleen. Over time, amyloids build up interferes with essential kidney functions like waste processing and removal, and blood and water regulation. Reasons for this uncommon cat kidney disease are still unknown, however, the condition appears mostly in animals age 7 and older. Breeds like Abyssinians, Oriental Shorthairs and Siamese are susceptible to a hereditary form of the disease, which typically affects cats 5 years and younger. While the exact causes of cat amyloidosis are unclear, a range of symptoms, related problems and treatments have been identified.

Problems and Symptoms of Renal Amyloidosis

Renal amyloidosis causes a number of serious problems that can contribute to feline kidney failure. Nephrotic syndrome occurs when severe amounts of the blood protein albumin leak into the urine and are expelled through urination. The resulting protein loss can lead to thromboembolism, or the formation of dangerous blood clots, especially in the lungs.

Other signs of nephrotic syndrome are edema, the retention of fluid in the face and limbs, and ascites, or fluid build up in the abdomen. Kidney failure caused by amyloid deposits can also lead to uremia, or the build up of waste products and toxins that are otherwise filtered by a healthy cat renal system.

Uremia can result in the following symptoms

  • loss of appetite
  • increased thirst and urination
  • diarrhea
  • weight loss
  • decreased activity
  • vomiting

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is also associated with amyloidosis. Because the kidneys help regulate blood pressure, cats with improperly functioning renal systems may have severe hypertension. High blood pressure can cause harmful stress to an ailing cat's kidneys, arteries and heart. Without proper treatment, conditions related to amyloidosis can cause increased pain, discomfort and permanent damage to the affected feline.

Diagnosing and Treating Feline Renal Amyloidosis

There are a number of tools veterinarians use to diagnose amyloidosis. Tests measuring the amount of protein in urine can show nephrotic syndrome-severe loss of albumin protein in the blood. A urinalysis can help determine uremic poisoning, a common symptom in kidney failure cats. Blood chemistry panels may also be administered to help identify the levels of chemicals, minerals and proteins in the feline bloodstream. In some cases, your veterinarian may also request X-rays or a kidney biopsy.

Currently, there is no cure for amyloidosis, however, treating the symptoms of the disease may help an affected pet lead a longer, more comfortable life. Infections related to amyloid-build up are usually treated with prescription antibiotics. High blood pressure may be countered with a specific drug like Norvasc. In order to replace valuable fluids lost due to kidney failure, your veterinarian may recommend hospitalizing your cat and administering intravenous therapy. Once your cat is healthy enough to return home, your vet may advise you to feed her a special diet formulated for kidney failure felines. There are also many holistic-based diets, supplements and vitamins available to treat they symptoms of cat kidney failure. These products are most often found online and in specialty health and pet stores.

Amyloidosis is a serious disease that can seem difficult and distressing to treat. Although there is no way to eliminate this feline renal condition, there are long-standing treatments designed to relieve the painful symptoms affecting your cat's urinary system. Familiarizing yourself with the risks, signs and therapies associated with amyloidosis is an important part of caring for a cat impacted by this rare kidney disorder.