Pet Care

Kidney Disease

Orange and white cat wearing green collar

Cats with kidney problems have a reduced ability to excrete waste products into their urine, leading to a potentially toxic build-up in the bloodstream. While some kidney problems occur suddenly, chronic kidney disease shows up more slowly over a period of time. Timely veterinary assessment with ongoing supportive care and dietary management can allow some cats with kidney problems to maintain an adequate quality of life.

What Causes Kidney Problems?

The following are some causes of both chronic and acute kidney problems:

  • High blood pressure
  • Infection
  • Immunological disease
  • Congenital or hereditary disease
  • Cancer
  • Decreased blood flow to kidneys
  • Kidney trauma
  • Urinary obstructions such as kidney stones
  • Exposure to toxins, especially antifreeze

What Are Some Signs of Kidney Problems?

If your cat shows any of the following symptoms, please take her to see your veterinarian.

  • Appetite loss/decrease
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Dehydration
  • Change in water consumption
  • Pain in the kidney area
  • Litter box aversion
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Bad breath
  • Constipation
  • Bloody or cloudy urine
  • Urinating in abnormal places or pain when urinating
  • Stumbling, acting drunk

Which Cats Are Prone to Kidney Problems?

Kidney disease is most prevalent in older cats, but can occur in cats of any age. Cats can be born with abnormal kidneys that never function properly. Some breeds, like Persians, are predisposed to such hereditary kidney problems.

Additionally, outdoor cats run the risk of acute problems because they have more chance of exposure to toxins that can cause kidney failure, namely antifreeze.

How Are Kidney Problems in Cats Diagnosed?

There are various ways to determine if a cat has kidney disease. Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination and take blood and urine samples to see if there is a problem with your pet’s kidneys. Radiographs, ultrasound, blood pressure measurement or biopsy of the kidney may also be performed.

How Are Kidney Problems in Cats Treated?

It may be difficult to determine a specific cause of kidney disease. Emergency treatment and hospitalized care may be needed depending on the stage of kidney failure a cat is in. Acute kidney disease can sometimes be caught early on, when there is minimal damage to the kidneys. In some cases, long-term supportive treatment is beneficial. The following are possible treatments:

  • Treatment of underlying cause of kidney failure (e.g. antifreeze toxicity, infection)
  • Drugs to enhance urine production
  • Therapeutic diet
  • Management of electrolyte abnormalities
  • Fluid therapy
  • Correction of anemia
  • Medication for high blood pressure, vomiting or gastrointestinal problems
  • Dialysis
  • Kidney transplant

Should Cats with Kidney Problems Be Fed a Special Diet?

Feeding your cat a special diet will not cure kidney disease, but managing your cat’s intake of protein, phosphorous and sodium can help diminish symptoms and add to your pet’s overall health and longevity. There are many commercially available veterinary diets for cats with chronic kidney disease.

Please remember, changes in your cat’s diet should not be made abruptly. Speak to your vet about gently transitioning your cat to a new food.

How Can I Care for My Cat at Home?

Be diligent with your cat’s eating regimen, keeping strictly to the diet your vet has prescribed. Always give her access to clean, fresh water, keep your home environment as calm as possible and make sure she has routine medical checkups and tests as advised by your vet.

How Can Kidney Problems Be Prevented?

Do not give your cat any over-the-counter medications without instruction by your veterinarian, and make sure she has access to fresh water at all times.

What Happens if a Cat’s Kidney Problems Go Untreated?

If acute kidney failure is not recognized and treated, cats can suffer varying degrees of permanent kidney damage and even death. Chronic kidney failure causes many secondary problems over time, including a decrease in calcium levels that can lead to bone demineralization. Anemia may also occur as the kidneys lose the ability to produce a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production. Ultimately, if left untreated, kidney failure is fatal.