Cat Kidney Issues

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Chronic Kidney disease (CKD) is the name for kidney failure in cats. The condition usually affects older cats and will progress in time, yet the rate of progression will differ for every cat. Your cat’s kidneys are responsible for many functions, including:

  • Maintaining fluid balance
  • Producing hormones
  • Regulating electrolytes
  • Excreting waste.

CKD can affect all these functions. This means that there are many symptoms of the disease. Although CKD is not curable, treatment can still increase the quality of life for your cat.

CKD Causes

Generally, CKD is the result of long-standing damage to the kidneys. The damage will be irreversible and will impair a cat’s ability to remove waste products. Often, the exact cause of CKD is unknown.

Your vet will take samples from the kidney for an accurate diagnosis. This will allow your vet to treat the underlying cause. Common causes include:

  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Kidney tumours
  • Bacterial infection
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Inflammation of the kidney
  • Birth defects
  • Low blood potassium
  • High blood calcium

By treating the underlying cause, in some cases, your vet can prevent the progression of CKD.

CKD Symptoms

As CKD is a progressive disease, most early signs will be subtle and mild. Yet, these will gradually get worse over a long period of time. It is very rare for symptoms to develop suddenly. However, it is not unknown. This is mainly caused by lack of access to clean water. The most common signs are:

  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Poor appetite
  • Increased thirst and urination

Less common signs include:

  • A dull coat
  • High blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Bad breath
  • Weakness

A diagnosis is usually made by analyzing the blood and urine. Yet, depending on individual circumstances your vet may need to perform an X-ray.

Due to the prevalence of cats with CKD routine screening for mature cats is encouraged. Your cat may not approve of regular trips to the vet. Yet, annual or bi-annual screenings can prolong your cat’s lifespan. Your vet will look out for a declining urine concentration of loss of weight. Further investigations will be carried out if this is the case for your cat.

Acute Renal Failure

Acute Renal Failure (ARF) refers to the sudden failure of your cat’s kidneys. Failure, will leave your cat’s kidneys to go about their usual filtration duties. ARF is not to be mistaken for the much more common form of kidney failure, CRF.

ARF will lead to the accumulation of toxins and metabolic waste in the blood stream. Which will then lead to dehydration, electrolyte and acid imbalances in the blood.

If diagnosed and treated early, ARF can be reversible. Which is why it is crucial to take your cat to regular screenings with your vet. Especially if your cat is mature or of advanced age. The most common symptoms of ARF include:

  • Sudden anorexia
  • Vomiting (potentially with blood in the vomit)
  • Listlessness
  • Diarrhea (which may also contain blood)
  • Seizures
  • Bad breath
  • Strange odor

Some cats may produce less urine, whilst others may produce more. If you notice any changes in their litter tray behavior, contact your vet for peace of mind. There are many causes of acute renal failure. The following are the most common:

  • Urethral obstruction
  • System shock
  • Antifreeze poisoning
  • Heart failure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Long-term use of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Clotting disorders
  • Snake of insect venom
  • Heavy metal poisoning
  • Ingestion of toxic plants
  • Bacterial infection of the kidney
  • Infectious Peritonitis.

Your vet will base the cat’s diagnosis on symptoms, medical history and blood and urine tests. Usually these diagnostics are enough. However in some cases your vet may utilise radiographs, ultrasounds or dye studies. If the results are still dubious, your vet may want a surgical biopsy of the kidneys affected.

Treatment focuses on the removal of circulating toxins first. Then your vet will attempt to restore the electrolyte balance. This is usually achieved by the administration of IV fluids. The short-term treatment will last between 1 and 4 days. If your cat’s ARF is a result of drug reaction or toxin exposure, your cat’s stomach must be emptied ASAP. This will be followed by an administrated of activated charcoal. After treatment, your vet may suggest nutritional support for your cat. This will help if your cat has had problems with persistent vomiting.

All treatment plans for ARF will vary. However, your vet will choose the most aggressive for the best chance of recovery. The long-term prognosis will depend on the cause of ARF. Infection-induced ARF is easier to treat than if the cause was a toxic substance. Each case is different based on the kidney’s capacity to regenerate. Your vet will provide you with an accurate prognosis after treatment.


Hi! My name is Jamie Fallon. I run, an online cat health and cat behavior resource. If I’m not sat in front of my PC—and I usually am—then I’m either spending time with my cats or my other half… Whoever jumps on me or asks me for food first!