cat meowing a lot

Cat Kidney Issues

If your cat is sick, it can be difficult to tell what’s the matter. Internal health problems can only be diagnosed by a vet—like kidney issues.

Do cats develop kidney issues like people can? They do. An example is chronic kidney disease or CKD, which is the name for kidney failure in cats. This occurs because of tumors, bacterial infection, inflammation, birth defects and dietary deficiencies. Acute renal failure is like CKD, but more sudden. Managing your cat’s diet should prevent these conditions.

These conditions are both very severe. They can both kill your cat if you don’t have them treated, so if you suspect your cat may have any kidney issue, talk to a vet as soon as possible.

Cat Kidney Issues

Cats, like humans, are more prone to developing health complaints as they age. There are a number of health complaints that cats become prone to when they become senior. Obesity is one of the less serious ones. Cat kidney issues sit at the other end of the scale. Cat kidney issues can range in severity from major to minor, but any issue with your cat’s kidney will potentially affect its quality of life. Veterinary advice is always required, as are changes to your cat’s lifestyle.

The kidney plays a vital role in your cat’s happiness and well-being. They’re there to eliminate waste products associated with protein. They also regulate your pet’s urine, and ensure there’s a healthy balance of fluids within a feline body. When the kidneys start to fail, problems develop with these functions. In many cases, it’s the loss of these functions that does more damage than the dysfunctional kidney.

While it’s mostly unheard of in older cats, cat kidney issues affect as many as three out of every ten cats over the age of twelve. Your cat’s prognosis depends on getting the right diagnosis and assistance as quickly as possible. That means it’s essential you know what to look out for, so you can identify a problem a quickly as possible. We’re here to help you do exactly that.

Cat Kidney Issues

Chronic Kidney Disease In Cats (CKD)

cat kidney issues
In some case, it may be necessary to treat cat kidney issues with a drip. Image from Wikimedia

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.

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

Chronic Kidney Disease In Cats: 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 tumors
  • 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.

Chronic Kidney Disease In Cats: 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
cat kidney issues
There’s a difference between a sleepy cat and a lethargic cat. Be aware if your pet’s sleeping habits change. Image from Flickr

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. In the future it’s hoped that the focus of dealing with CKD will move from treatment to prevention. Emerging science is working on that issue right now, and if things change we’ll report on it right here.

Acute Renal Failure In Cats

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.

Acute Renal Failure In Cats: Symptoms

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 cat 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.

Acute Renal Failure In Cats: Assessment And Treatment

cat kidney issues
A vet is always the best placed person to advise on feline health issues. Image from Flickr

When assessing cat renal failure, 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 for cat renal failure 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.

Diets To Help With Cat Kidney Issues

There are specialist diets available which are designed to ease the symptoms of kidney failure in cats. They can also slow down the development of cat kidney issues. Every cat is different, and so your vet will perform a detailed assessment of your pet before recommending a specific course of action. Food is often the first thing your vet will advise upon, though, and that’s all down to what can be done with food content.

How Protein and Fatty Acid Helps

Food prescribed for cat kidney issues is high in protein. Not only that, but the specific protein used will be formulated in a manner that’s easy for your cat to digest. With cat kidney issues, a damaged kidney can struggle to flush out or regulate waste. Specialist food for a cat with kidney disease is very digestible, which means there’s less waste to flush out in the first place, and so less demand placed on a struggling kidney.

As well as a boost in protein, you can expect prescription food to come with low phosphorous levels, and an increase in fatty acids. Although we’re hard-wired to see the word ‘fatty’ and presume it’s undesirable, in the case of cat kidney issues the acids involved work as anti-inflammatories. As with the protein, that’s kinder to the damaged kidney, and reduces the stress placed upon the organ.

Persuading Your Cat To Eat Prescription Food

cat kidney issues
A change to your cat’s diet will be necessary if they have kidney issues. Even if they’re really, really angry about it. Image from Wikimedia.

Your cat is probably a fussy eater. We say that because almost all cats are. Most cats have a favorite food, and a food routine. We already know that changes to routine can stress cats out, and that they’ll resist new foods if they don’t approve of them. This is a problem when you’re looking to feed your cat specialist food. The way it’s formulated means that it’s unlikely to taste as good as what they’re used to eating. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to help a sick cat who refuses to co-operate.

Our advice when it comes to persuading your cat to accept the new food is the same as our advice on persuading cats to eat in general. Persistence and patience have to become your watchwords. The best approach is to make the change to the new diet slowly and carefully. Do not, under any circumstances, switch your cat’s diet completely and immediately unless your vet tells you to do so. Instead, blend your cat’s old food with the new food, starting with a small amount. If you’re lucky, your cat won’t even notice the change. Every day from there on, increase the percentage of your cat’s meal that’s composed of the new food, and decrease the old.

Take Care With Portion Sizes

While you’re carefully mixing your food types, pay special attention to the portion sizes. The content of the special food for cat kidney issues is very different to what you’re used to feeding your cat. That means they may require less or more of it in order to get a full meal. Don’t leave your vet’s surgery without getting their advice on portions.

It may even be the case that you need to serve your cat a different number of meals throughout the day. We appreciate that having a full time job might make this very difficult. An automatic cat feeder may be able to assist with this. While your cat is getting used to their new diet, it’s important not to feed them smaller ‘meals’ at other points in the day. This includes treats, which unfortunately may now be off the menu permanently.

Heat It Up

There is also a way to ‘trick’ your cat into accepting their new food. As we’ve already covered, prescription food just isn’t as much fun for your cat as it’s regular diet. It doesn’t taste or smell as interesting. The texture may also be a little different; prescription food is usually dry. If your cat prefers wet food then heating it up a little in a microwave can make all the difference. Don’t make it hot – just warm enough that it softens a little. The added bonus of doing this is that the food will then release smells which will make it more appetizing. You can also try pouring a little warm water on it to soften it up further.

Moving your cat across from its old diet to its new one will take time. If your cat is quite tolerant and receptive to change, it could be as little as two weeks. If you’re the owner of a more stubborn and discerning eater, you could be working at this for more like a month. Just keep at it and don’t back down – your cat will eventually accept its new diet. In doing so, you’re prolonging your cat’s life and keeping it healthier for longer.

Cat kidney issues are worrying, and potentially serious. Despite that, it’s important to remember that they’re not a death sentence. There’s nothing stopping a cat with kidney issues from living a long and full life if the problem is identified early enough, and appropriate treatment is sought.

Thanks for stopping by our site today to read our guide to cat kidney issues. We hope you’ve found the information useful. If you have, please consider sharing it among your cat loving friends!