Kidney Disease in Cats: Battling a Formidable Foe
Tiger is an old but seemingly still very healthy cat. You might have noticed that the litter box has been more full over the last several months, and maybe you see him at the water bowl several times a day. He is still eating well, cuddling at night, and attacking his favorite toys, though, so you just overlook these new habits.
Then you decide to go on vacation. Tiger does fine during boarding (at a reputable location of course), but from almost the moment you bring him home, he is sick. He doesn’t want to eat, he’s vomiting, and he seems lethargic. Time for a trip to see us at Huntington Veterinary Hospital where the news is disheartening – it’s his kidneys.
Kidney disease in cats is an unfortunately common condition that all feline fanatics need to be educated regarding. After all, knowledge can be a powerful weapon.
When Good Kidneys Fail
The main role of the kidneys is to filter waste from the bloodstream, excreting it out of the body through the urine. Your cat’s kidneys also play an essential role in:
- Maintaining appropriate hydration status
- Regulating blood pressure
- Stimulating the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow
- Maintaining an appropriate blood pH
- Regulating electrolytes in the bloodstream
There are multiple reasons why the kidneys may not be working as well as they should. Kidney disease in cats can be grouped into one of two major categories: acute or chronic.
Acute kidney failure results from a sudden insult to the kidneys. This often occurs due to a poisoning such a lily ingestion or antifreeze toxicity. It could also happen if blood flow to the kidneys are impaired (perhaps due to prolonged low blood pressure), due to a severe infection, or due to obstruction of urine outflow.
Chronic kidney disease is more common in cats. This longer term problem happens when the kidneys cease to function well over time. This may be due to a problem the pet was born with, long term low grade damage, or even just wear and tear.
When a cat is suffering from kidney failure, waste that is normally excreted through the kidneys builds up in the body, causing increased water intake to make things feel better and subsequent increased urination.
If waste builds up to a certain level, a uremic crisis can occur. This can make our feline patients feel quite sick. Loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, and severe dehydration are common.
How We Can Help
While in most cases kidney disease in cats is not curable, our expert staff at Huntington Veterinary Hospital can help.
If your cat is in a uremic crisis, fluid therapy in the hospital is essential to rehydrate and flush toxins from the bloodstream. Supportive care for nausea and other complications may also be necessary.
For cats who suffer from kidney disease but are stable, things like dietary therapy, at home fluid therapy, and supportive medications can help to keep the kidneys functioning as well as possible.
Your Role in Kidney Disease in Cats
Of course the care for a cat suffering from kidney disease starts at home. You as the pet owner play an essential role in helping your feline friend. There are many things that you can do to help.
- Let us know right away if you suspect your cat may be suffering from kidney disease- the sooner we diagnose the problem, the better we can manage it.
- Bring your cat in for frequent exams so that we can stay ahead of trouble such as weight loss, anemia (low red blood cell count), high blood pressure, and electrolyte imbalances that can occur with kidney disease
- Be sure that your cat has access to fresh water at all times. Some cats may prefer a running water source like a circulating fountain.
- Offer your cat canned food if appropriate in order to supplement water intake.
- Let us know right away if your cat won’t eat the diet we recommend or you cannot administer medications.
- Pay special attention that your cat stays well hydrated during potentially stressful times (boarding, increased activity in home, moving, etc.).
Don’t forget, you are your cat’s advocate. We are here as part of your team for maintaining a great quality of life, but the ball is in your court when it comes to reaching out to us for help.