For cats as for humans, the kidney is a vital organ that performs a wide range of important bodily functions, including:
- Filtering waste materials from the blood (to be excreted in urine)
- Regulating body minerals and blood pressure
- Producing vital hormones
Kidney failure is very common in cats, especially in older cats who usually suffer from the chronic form of the disease.
The different types of kidney failure
Acute kidney failure is the sudden inability of the kidneys to function properly. In cats, it can be caused by infection or by ingestion of toxins. It is sometimes reversible, but not in all cases.
Chronic kidney failure occurs over a long expanse of time, from months to years. Causes can range from infections to tumours but usually the cause is unknown. By the time chronic kidney failure is diagnosed it is irreversible. Fortunately, treatments do exist which slow the progress of the disease and help alleviate the symptoms
How chronic kidney failure develops
In the early stages, healthy areas of the kidney compensate for damaged areas by taking on their workload. However, as the disease progresses, more functioning areas are lost and the remaining healthy areas cannot make up for overall loss. Once this happens, your cat will show signs of kidney failure.
Chronic kidney failure is a progressive disorder and many cats develop some degree of failure as they get older due to the gradual deterioration of the parts of the kidney that do the work.
The condition is usually managed using fluids, special diets and medicines to help slow disease progression and help your cat feel better despite her condition.
Signs to look out for
Excessive urination: the disease can affect the ability to concentrate urine, meaning cats can produce large amounts of diluted urine. This makes cats drink more to replace the fluid being lost.
Poor appetite and lethargy: this is a sign that toxins normally excreted in the urine are building up in the body. This can also lead to vomiting, retching and bad breath.
Diagnosis by your vet
Always consult your vet if you suspect your cat has kidney disease. Your vet will want to test a urine sample and also take a blood test. If your cat is diagnosed with kidney disease, treatment usually consists of dietary control or medication (or both depending on the severity of disease).
How diet can help
A tailored diet has been proven to reduce signs of kidney failure and slow disease progression. As such, nutrition is often key to the management of chronic kidney disease in cats. Your vet may recommend switching to a scientifically formulated diet, such as PURINA® PRO PLAN® VETERINARY DIETS Feline NF St/Ox Renal Function.