Kidney failure can take place so slowly that by the time the symptoms have become obvious, it may be too late to treat effectively. While cats of any age can be diagnosed with kidney failure, it is most commonly seen in older cats. This is why routine annual blood work is recommended in cats starting at the age of 7.
Kidneys are responsible for regulating blood pressure, filtering the blood, electrolyte balancing, and production of red blood cells and some hormones among other things. For this reason, symptoms may vary and occur gradually.
- Decreased Appetite
- Weight loss
- Increased thirst
- Sudden blindness
- Seizures and comas
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Increase in the frequency and volume of urination
Causes of kidney failure include primary kidney disease, certain medications, lymphoma, and hereditary factors.
Due to the many symptoms and causes of kidney failure recommended tests include a blood chemistry profile, a complete blood cell count, and a urinalysis. These tests look for the levels of certain protein enzymes and chemicals such as creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN). Another important diagnostic tool for of chronic kidney failure is x-rays and/or ultrasound imaging. These help to observe the size and shape of the kidneys to see if there are any noticeable abnormalities. Often, chronic kidney failure causes the kidneys to become abnormally small.
Although there is no cure for chronic kidney failure, there are numerous steps that can be taken to minimize the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Cats suffering from chronic kidney failure may need to undergo fluid therapy often to assist with depleted body fluid levels (dehydration). Maintaining hydration is critical. Intravenous (IV) fluid therapy may be necessary for some patients, while subcutaneous (under the skin) fluid therapy may be indicated in others depending on the progression of the disease and level of dehydration. At times subcutaneous fluids may need to be continued at home.
Dietary protein is sometimes restricted since it can further compound the condition. Specially formulated food will have a higher level of potassium and polysaturated fatty acids (omega 6 and 3 fatty acids); both have shown to be beneficial to kidney health.
Phosphorus binders and vitamin D supplements may be implemented in an attempt to improve calcium and phosphorous level, and to reduce some of the secondary effects of renal failure. Other medications, including appetite stimulants and anti-vomiting medications are sometimes needed to treat the secondary gastric (stomach) ulcers and gastritis that develop, secondary to renal disease, which often reduces the patient?s appetite. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is prevalent in cats with chronic kidney failure and medications to control the blood pressure may be warranted.
Chronic kidney failure is a progressive disease. Cats experiencing this disease should be monitored on an ongoing basis with frequent check-ups including blood work, urinalysis, and blood pressure to ensure that it is not necessary to make changes to the medications, diet, or fluid therapy.
The patient?s prognosis depends on the severity of the disease, how fast it is progressing. The best way to manage this disease is to follow through with the treatments your veterinarian prescribes.