Veterinary Pet Care - Dog Health | Cat Health | Dog Care | Cat Care

Chronic Kidney Failure In Cats

Kidney disease is a common problem of pet health in cats; pet care at home involves a number of things which will improve the quality of your cat's life.The term "chronic kidney failure" suggests that the kidneys have quit working and are, therefore, not making urine. Kidney failure is the inability of the kidneys to remove waste products from the blood, hence these toxins build up in your cat's blood system, making then feel sick. Your cat will produce lots of dilute urine.

Many forms of chronic kidney failure are the end result of infections or toxins damaging the kidneys. However, the typical form of chronic kidney failure is the result of aging; it is simply a "wearing out" process. For most cats, the early signs occur at about 10-14 years of age.


The kidneys are essentially filters through which the blood flows for cleansing. When disease or aging causes the filtration process to become inefficient and ineffective, blood flow to the kidneys is increased in an attempt to increase filtration. This results in the production of more urine. To keep the cat from becoming dehydrated due to increased fluid loss in the urine, thirst is increased; this results in more water consumption. Thus, the early clinical signs of kidney failure are increased water consumption and increased urine production. The clinical signs of more advanced kidney failure include loss of appetite, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, and very bad breath. Occasionally, ulcers will be found in the mouth.


The diagnosis of kidney failure is made by determining the level of two waste products in the blood: blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and blood creatinine. A urinalysis is also needed to complete the study of kidney function.

Although BUN and creatinine levels reflect kidney failure, they do not predict what will happen tomorrow or next week. A cat with marginal kidney function may have normal blood tests. If that cat is stressed with major illness or surgery, the kidneys may fail, sending the blood test values up quickly.


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The goal of treatment is to restore function of the kidneys. But, we must recognize that your cat's kidneys have reached this point due to long-standing disease or aging; therefore, they will never be normal again. However, many cats still have enough functional kidney tissue so that treatment will be very rewarding.

Treatment is in two phases. The first phase is to "restart" the kidneys; it usually lasts 3-6 days. Large quantities of intravenous fluids are given to "flush out" the kidneys. This flushing process, called diuresis, helps to stimulate the kidney cells to function again. If enough functional kidney cells remain, they may be able to adequately meet the body's needs for waste removal.

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Fluid therapy includes replacement of various electrolytes, especially potassium. Other important aspects of initial treatment include proper nutrition and drugs to control vomiting and diarrhea.


The most important thing that you can do for your pet with renal failure is to maintain adequate hydration. Offer lots of fresh water. If your cat isn't a great water drinker, then make the switch to canned food.


Newer research has shown that the most important thing to restrict in early kidney failure is phosphorus. This mineral speeds up destruction of the remaining kidney cells. Stop all dairy products as they are very high in phosphorus. Feed a specific, moderately reduced protein diet, such as a premium quality senior diet, in the early stages. As kidney failure advances, switch to a restricted protein diet, available from your veterinarian. Go Here for a homemade low-protein, low-phosphorus diet.


The omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish oil are shown to delay the progression of kidney failure. The dose is one 250mg capsule per 10 lbs of body weight daily.

How long can I expect my cat to have a quality life?

The prognosis is quite variable depending on response to the initial stage of treatment and your ability to perform the follow-up care. However, we encourage treatment in most situations because many cats will respond and have a good quality of life for up to four years.

Is kidney transplantation possible?

This procedure is being done at a few selected locations in the United States. Generally, the cat must still be in good condition and not ill from the kidney failure in order to be accepted for a transplant. Also, many transplant centers require that the owner adopt the cat which has donated a kidney for the procedure.

This procedure is not for everyone. The cost is often prohibitive and multiple medications must be given daily for the duration of the cat's life. Repeated blood tests are required to monitor function of the transplanted kidney and to monitor blood levels of the anti-rejection drug. Also, the anti-rejection drug is expensive. But, it is truly a cure for kidney failure.

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