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Your cat’s kidneys play a vital role in maintaining her health. They help control her blood pressure, regulate the bloodstream, produce important hormones, enzymes, and red blood cells, as well as remove metabolic waste from the blood. If the cat’s kidneys aren’t able to do their job properly, this can lead to significant, life-threatening problems for your cat.
Common Causes of Cat Renal Failure
Kidney failure is one of the most common causes of severe illnesses in cats, especially in older cats. There are two categories of renal failure in cats: acute renal failure and chronic renal failure. Signs of acute renal failure usually manifest over a week or month’s time, while chronic renal failure is present for a longer period. The risk for cat kidney disease is higher in certain breeds like Persians and Angoras, but the disease is typically acquired.
Potential causes of kidney failure in cats include:
- Decreased blood or urine flow to the kidneys
- High blood pressure
- Obstructions such as kidney stones
- Ingestion of toxic substances, such as antifreeze, pesticides, medications and cleaning chemicals
- Advanced dental disease
- Some long-haired breeds (such as Persians and Angoras) have a genetic predisposition to the disease
- Age older than seven years
- A food high in phosphorus or increased levels of protein can increase the disease’s progression
- Outdoor cats have a higher risk for acute problems due to their potential increased exposure to toxins
Signs of Kidney Failure in Cats
Common signs of kidney failure in cats may be difficult to detect because of their similarities to other disorders like diabetes and hyperthyroidism. Unfortunately, kidney failure is a progressive disease, and symptoms may not be apparent for a long time.
If you notice any of these signs in your cat, contact your vet:
- Reduced appetite
- Increased thirst
- Frequent or no urination
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Poor coat appearance
- Lethargy and depression
- Weight loss
- Bad breath
- Sore mouth or mouth ulcers
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Increased sleeping
Treatment for Feline Kidney Disease
Cats in early stages of kidney disease usually do not show signs of the disease. Typically, signs do not appear until 75 percent of kidney function has been lost. With early diagnosis, acute renal failure can be detected and managed. However, chronic renal failure is an incurable condition that mainly affects older cats and is treated with palliative care. Depending on the condition, your vet may recommend fluid therapy, food modification, blood pressure drugs, dialysis or a transplant.
Because symptoms may not be apparent until your cat’s kidney functions have been lost, it is important to make sure your cat gets her regular check-up at the vet. This could be the difference in catching it early and catching it too late. Also, it is helpful to document unusual tendencies you notice in your cat from the onset such as the ones listed above; this can be very helpful in helping your vet to determine if your cat’s kidneys need to be further examined. It’s recommended that all cats 7 years and older get a “senior screening” at their annual check-up in order to determine if your cat has kidney issues.
Providing the proper nutrition for your cat can help reduce the risk of kidney disease and failure and improve her overall health. If your cat has been diagnosed with kidney disease, modifying her food can help slow the progression of disease and lengthen her lifespan. Specially formulated foods can be beneficial to the kidneys by having less protein and phosphorous than other pet foods. Phosphorus restriction can lessen the severity of the symptoms and progression of kidney damage, while decreased, high-quality proteins can help restore normal acid-base levels.
Balanced nutrition is an essential part of an active, healthy lifestyle. If your cat has kidney problems, the right nutrition can positively impact her life. Make sure you have fresh water available to your cat at all times. If you suspect that your cat may have renal failure, consult your veterinarian and discuss the best food for her kidney health. Be sure to ask your veterinarian about special cat foods that support kidney health, and see if they are right for your cat if she is diagnosed with kidney problems.