Renal Insufficiency in Cats

Chronic renal insufficiency or chronic kidney disease generally affects older cats. Cats that are older than 7 years of age lose some of their kidney function and suffer from chronic renal insufficiency that gradually leads to kidney failure. This condition is a leading cause of death in older cats but can strike younger cats as well.

Kidneys and Their Functions

The primary function of the kidneys is to regulate the amount of fluids in the body and to eliminate waste and toxins from the body. The kidneys consist of thousands of micro filtering units known as nephrons that help them in their functions. These functions include the filtration of blood, the elimination of waste products and the re-absorption of fluids so that the dog doesn’t suffer from dehydration.

The kidneys also play an important role in maintaining electrolyte balance. A hormone produced by the kidneys known as erythropoietin regulates the production of red blood cells and another hormone known as rennin controls blood pressure.

Chronic Renal Insufficiency

Over time, nephrons get damaged and destroyed. When more than 70 percent of the nephrons are destroyed, the kidneys are no longer able to carry out their multiple functions without support and this causes renal insufficiency and fatality.

Symptoms of Renal Deficiency

Symptoms of renal deficiency in cats include:

  • Increase in thirst
  • Increase in urination
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Foul breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Oral ulcers
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Dull coat
  • Constipation
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Drooling
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Detached retina
  • Low body temperature
  • Coma 
  • Seizures

Causes of Feline Renal Insufficiency

Age, environment and genetics are the primary causes of this condition. Cats belonging to certain breeds such as Abyssinian, Burmese, Balinese and Russian Blue are more prone to this condition. Pets suffering from hypertension and dental disease are also more likely to develop renal insufficiency.

Cats should not be fed acidified diets that have low amounts of potassium as this can lead to renal insufficiency in the future.

Diagnosis of Feline Renal Insufficiency

Since many other diseases have symptoms that are similar to those of renal insufficiency, clinical tests are essential for a correct diagnosis. The vet may recommend tests such as urinalysis to check the concentration of the urine. Blood tests will also be performed to check the levels of creatinine and blood urea nitrogen.

Treatment of Cat Renal Insufficiency

Dietary changes, hydration, hemodialysis and kidney transplants are some of the treatment options that are generally used to improve the quality and length of life of a cat suffering from renal insufficiency. The recommended diet should be low in salt and potassium content. Plenty of fresh drinking water should be provided to affected cats. Often, the blood of pets suffering from renal insufficiency has to be extracted and purified by an artificial kidney before it’s replaced in the cat’s body. A kidney transplant can improve the length of your pet’s life by as many as 6 years but it’s not without risk.

Cats with renal insufficiency need to be fed a nutritious diet and kept well hydrated. Such cats need more care than healthy ones. With proper treatment, affected cats can live better lives. However, since this is a terminal disease, euthanasia might become essential when the discomfort increases to unbearable levels.