Senior Cat Kidney Failure

As felines grow older, they experience a number of age-related effects. These range from the mild, like minor loss of mobility, to the fatal, like cat kidney failure. The key to managing these conditions is early diagnosis and quick response. Chronic renal failure is one of many senior cat conditions that is persistent and fatal, but with proper treatment you can manage your pet's condition for months or even years following a diagnosis.

Unlike acute kidney failure, the chronic form of the disease develops over a long period of time. If the kidneys are unable to function properly, a number of potentially toxic natural chemicals build up in your pet's bloodstream. Fortunately, your pet's kidneys are still able to support his life even after three quarters of the kidney tissue itself has been damaged.

Symptoms of Chronic Renal Failure

Old cats' kidneys tend to break down over time and lose function. As they do, these cats may develop chronic renal failure, or CRF. This progressive disease has a wide range of symptoms depending upon the state of the cat, the development of the disease and other factors as well. If you have an older cat, be on the lookout for the following potential signs of chronic renal failure:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Excessive thirst
  • Weight and appetite loss
  • Loss of coat sheen

The symptoms may not appear until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage, so it is crucial that you be aware of your cat's healthy behavior and weight and acknowledge any changes to the norm.

Diagnosing CRF in Cats

A diagnosis of chronic renal failure is made based upon a blood test and urinalysis. If you suspect that your senior cat may be experiencing symptoms of CRF, have him examined by a veterinarian as quickly as possible. The vet will conduct a physical exam and then will take a blood sample and urine sample for additional laboratory tests.

Once the laboratory tests come back, your vet will examine them for signs of excessive blood urea nitrogen (or BUN), creatinine and other toxins in your pet's system. Unusually high levels of these toxins indicate that the kidneys are not functioning properly, although the condition may not yet be critical.

Treating CRF

There are a number of ways that you and your veterinarian can help to manage your pet's kidney function after he is diagnosed with CRF. While you cannot stop the progression of the disease entirely, you can help to slow the decline of kidney function. Intravenous rehydration and feeding may be necessary to stabilize your cat's system in an emergency. Otherwise, your veterinarian may recommend a diet that is low in both protein and phosphorous, as these substances are difficult for kidneys to process. Additionally, a number of medications are available to help remove toxins in your pet's bloodstream, to stimulate his appetite, and to address other symptoms of the condition as well.

While CRF is a terminal condition, with proper care you can extend your pet's life significantly and slow the progression of the disease.