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Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Cats

The kidneys perform several essential functions in our cat's body, such as filtering out toxins. Unfortunately, they often cause problems for our feline friends, and are one of the most common killers. Today, our Egg Harbor Township vets explain some of the causes, treatments, and signs of end-stage kidney failure in cats.

Your Cat's Kidneys

When your cat's kidneys are healthy, they work to remove toxins, manage blood pressure, maintain a normal electrolyte balance, regulate hydration and calcium, and produce hormones that stimulate the production of red blood cells. 

If your cat is diagnosed with kidney failure - also known as renal failure - the kidneys are no longer functioning efficiently. This can be caused by a number of factors and conditions, such as infections, tumors, or ingesting something toxic.  

The immediate risk of failing kidneys in cats is that they cannot clear the blood of dangerous toxins.

Types of Kidney Failure in Cats

There are two types of kidney failure in cats. Each type differs in causes, treatment options and prognosis.

Acute Renal Failure: If your cat is suffering from acute kidney failure, it means that their kidneys are suddenly unable to function properly. This type of kidney failure occurs suddenly, within days or weeks. If diagnosed in time, acute renal failure can often be reversed. It can happen in cats of any age and typically results from poisons, trauma, infection, organ failure, urethral blockages, or dehydration. Poisons, such as toxic plants, pesticides, cleaning fluids and human medications, are the most common cause of acute renal failure.

Chronic Kidney Failure:  Chronic kidney failure in cats is a gradual condition that typically develops over several months or even years. This type of kidney failure is typically caused by autoimmune diseases, cysts in the kidneys, or genetics.  Chronic kidney failure is a progressive illness that can lead to total kidney failure, where the kidneys gradually stop working completely. 

Signs of Kidney Failure in Cats 

When the kidneys aren’t removing waste from your cat's body properly, you may notice that your kitty is drinking larger-than-usual amounts of water and attempting to urinate more often. Because the toxins build up in the cat's body, they may feel nauseous and stop eating their food. In general, your cat will appear to be lethargic and not very happy. 

General symptoms of kidney failure in cats can include:

  • Dehydration
  • Excess thirst
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea (may contain blood)
  • Vomiting (may contain blood)
  • Depression
  • Bad breath

If your cat is suffering from acute kidney failure you may also notice an arched back or stiff-legged gait.

Chronic kidney failure gradually progresses over years, and the signs may not be noticeable. By the time you do see symptoms, the disease may already be leading to total kidney failure. 

While there is no cure for chronic kidney disease yet, if it’s detected and treated early your cat’s longevity and quality of life can be improved.

Symptoms of End Stage Kidney Failure in Cats

The most common symptoms of end stage kidney failure in cats include dull sunken eyes, inability to walk, body odour, incontinence in bladder or bowels, refusal to eat or drink, seizures, confusion, pacing and restlessness, withdrawing, hiding, and running away.

Though more than one of these symptoms will be present, you may not see all of them in your cat. There are no easy answers with kidney failure, as different symptoms may be present at different times. 

It's important to note that these symptoms can also be signs of other illnesses, which is why early diagnosis, disease management and communication with your vet is so important. 

How Kidney Failure in Cats is Diagnosed & Treated

Your vet will do a comprehensive examination of your cat, including blood and urine tests, X-rays, and possibly an ultrasound. A kidney biopsy might also be required. 

If kidney disease is found, treatments could include intravenous fluids to correct dehydration, vitamin injections, supplements, medications, and possibly surgery to remove blockages. When treating kidney failure the goal is to manage the symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. 

You can support your cat’s treatment with a carefully managed diet and plenty of clean fresh water. Your vet will recommend that you gradually transition your cat to a kidney-friendly diet that is low in both phosphorus and protein and is enriched with vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.  

Palliative care is required for cats with end stage kidney failure. In their final days this will mean keeping them warm and comfortable, with food, water and a litter box nearby, as well as lots of loving human companionship.

How Do I Prevent my Cat from Having Kidney Problems?

Many cats are genetically predisposed to have kidney problems at some point throughout their life. However, making sure the cat is always adequately hydrated is a great step to maintaining healthy kidneys. By serving your cat wet food, and keeping them at a healthy weight, you can increase the longevity of their kidney health.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

Concerned about your cat's kidneys? Contact our Egg Harbor Township vets to book an appointment.

Always Welcoming New Patients

At Newkirk Family Veterinarians, we always accept new patients into our veterinary family. Our veterinarians are passionate about the health and well-being of Egg Harbor Township pets. Contact us today to book your pet's first appointment. 

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