Kidney failure is one of the most common causes of deaths in cats, and although many of these deaths couldn’t be prevented, early diagnosis of feline kidney disease symptoms could have resulted in many of them having lived much longer with proper treatment.
It is important to know that there are two types of kidney disease in cats, one is acute renal failure, the other is chronic kidney disease, the first is reversible if caught early enough, while the other is not curable, but can be managed to prolong the life of the cat.
Therefore, in this article today we will take a look at the symptoms of kidney disease in cats, because it is important to diagnose both of these conditions early on to get the best results from treatment.
What are the two types of kidney failure and feline kidney disease symptoms in each?
1. Acute Renal Failure (ARF)
Acute renal failure is usually developed over a short period of time and can happen to cats of all ages, and there are quite a few causes of this condition. Acute renal failure can be caused by poison, such as eating a poisonous plant, or drinking a liquid that is poisonous, such as anti-freeze, or getting into human medicines which can be extremely dangerous. Trauma can also be a cause of acute renal failure or shock from losing a lot of blood, or even rapid dehydration.
Other causes could be an infection in the kidneys, or a blockage that inhibits the flow of blood into the kidneys as well as the flow of urine out from the kidneys. Heart failure can also be a cause, especially with low blood pressure, which again reduces the flow of blood into the kidneys. Having said that, even though acute renal failure is a serious condition, and can be fatal, it can be reversible if caught early enough and treatment is followed correctly, depending on the cause.
B. Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis for acute renal failure can be quite expensive if you don’t have pet insurance, and generally involves a complete examination, blood samples, urinalysis, ultrasound, biopsy of the kidney, x-ray of the abdomen and more depending on the situation and vet. Once the vet has found the cause, the treatments can vary, with some treatments include inducing vomiting, the use of intravenous fluids, control of vomiting, drugs, monitoring of urine output and more. There is no effective home remedy or treatment for acute renal failure, however, if you suspect your cat may have this contact your vet immediately and follow their advice to the letter.
C. Signs for Cat Owners to look out for
Things to watch for regarding acute renal failure are, changes in water intake and urination, disorientation, decreased urination, straining to urinate, loss of appetite, weakness and lethargy. Moreover, be aware especially in the colder months, to keep anti-freeze away from cats as this is extremely poisonous due to the ethylene glycol content. Many cats that roam outdoors during winter months are prone to coming into contact with ethylene glycol, in turn giving them a larger risk of developing acute renal failure.
Here is a YouTube video which gives you an overview of the most common symptoms:-
2. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
Chronic kidney disease is the progressive loss of kidney function over time, and as we all know, that kidneys perform many tasks needed to keep the body healthy. Moreover, the kidney is what filters the blood and makes urine, so problems with the kidneys can lead to a number of other health problems, especially in cats. Clinically speaking, a cat with chronic kidney disease, can have a buildup of waste, which the kidney would normally filter out, remove or regulate.
Cats with chronic kidney disease may have acid buildup in their blood, leading to lethargy and cats with acidosis can lead to other problems with other organs in the body. Chronic kidney disease may also lead to the cats inability to produce red blood cells, leading to anaemia, in turn, this can lead to their gums becoming discolored, appearing light pink, or in more severe cases white. A veterinarian will usually run blood tests and urinalysis to evaluate the waste buildup that good kidneys would normally filter out.
Some of the causes of chronic kidney disease can be urinary blockage, prescription medications, lymphoma as well as some genetic factors. For instance, owners of Persian cats, and Abyssinian breeds should be aware as these breeds are often more prone to chronic kidney disease than other breeds, although all breeds are known to get this. However, recognizing some of the signs, or symptoms can help get this condition diagnosed quicker if the owner is aware of what to look for in their cat.
Early detection of any of the following indicators can help to treat this type of kidney disease early and help preserve the remaining functioning parts
- Increased thirst/urination
- Weight loss
- Poor coat quality
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Mouth ulcers
- Loss of appetite
B. Diagnosis and Treatment
As the clinical signs are often quite vague with this type of the disease the aims of your vet will be to monitor your pet over a period of time by carrying out the following tests
- Clinical examination. This is done by physically feeling the cat’s kidneys to check for size and shape and for any discernible discomfort
- Blood test. To check for toxin indicators, quality of red and white blood cells, as well as phosphorous and potassium components
- Urine sample. To check the functioning ability of the kidneys
- Abdominal ultrasound. The vet may recommend this to assess the kidneys function further as a means of detecting any potential tumours
Depending on the results of the above the vet may recommend the following treatments:-
- Intravenous fluids. For re hydrating your cat and flushing the kidneys to remove toxins
- Appetite stimulants. To help start your cat eating again
- Dietary changes. Vet may prescribe a special kidney diet to reduce the levels of toxins in the blood stream.
- Antibiotics. These are prescribed if a urinary tract or kidney infection is detected.
- Potassium supplements. Where the cats kidneys have failed resulting in muscle weakness and poor coat quality, a cat’s well being can be improved with these supplements that replace the potassium lost through kidney failure
- Vitamin B and C supplements. Again these are required to replace those essential for good health vitamins lost through kidney failure
- Blood pressure monitoring. To lessen the chance of further damage to the blood vessels in the kidneys.
- Provide lots of water This is done to encourage your cat to drink as in their condition they are at a more higher risk of dehydrating.
Here is a YouTube Video which summarizes the causes and treatment of this disease:-
C. Signs for Cat Owners to look out for
Some of the things to watch for would be an increase in the amount of times your cat tries to urinate, blood in the urine, seizures, blindness, increased thirst, diarrhea, depression, vomiting, weight loss, constipation and lethargy. Keep in mind, that not all cats will show all of the signs, and some may not show most of the signs listed, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution and keep regular appointments with your vet. Moreover, be sure to tell your vet of any changes in behavior, especially changes that seem to have occurred over a lengthy period that you may not feel was relevant.
Cats that suffer from a long term kidney disease, even when it is not curable, can often do well on the treatments available, especially giving quality of life and even slowing the progression of the condition.
For instance, it’s not just medication that can help, but sometimes a change in diet is necessary too, like a specially formulated kidney diet.
A cat’s progression of the disease will depend on the severity and stage of the disease, but with proper treatment you may be able to get stability from a few months to a few years, as each individual case will vary.
In Memory of Oscar
This article is dedicated to the memory of Oscar our beloved ginger tom cat who sadly passed away in June this year as a result of kidney failure despite having regular examinations by a vet during his lifetime. He was finally diagnosed as having Chronic Kidney Disease by the vet in June and was treated in the manner described above which also included dialysis treatment on his kidneys.
Sadly he did not respond to the treatment due to the advanced stage of the disease and was euthanized less than 2 weeks after the treatment had commenced having lost a lot of weight and the ability to eat and drink. He was only 7 years old and will be sadly missed.
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