Renal Failure In Cats – Causes And Symptoms

orange cat sitting

Renal failure in cats (also known as kidney failure) is very similar torenal failure in dogs.The signs often go unnoticed until more advanced stages of the disease. Up to 75% of the kidney function has usually been lost when most cats are found to have renal failure. How quickly the remaining 25% is lost depends on whether there is still active disease damaging the kidneys.

The Most Common Symptoms of Renal Failure in Cats

  1. Drinking more – Cats with renal failure will often seek water in new places where they have not drunk from before. They may be asking for water at the tap, drinking from the toilet or even from fish bowls.
  2. Peeing more – You may find more urine in the litter box, or urine in places outside the litter box. They may start to urinate on bedding, behind furniture, in potted plants or on items left on the floor.
  3. Weight loss – This can be subtle and can be a result of many different factors associated with renal failure in cats.
  4. Bad breath – As the kidneys fail they are unable to effectively filter the blood properly. Waste products build up and the breath starts to smell like an outhouse.
  5. Poor coat – Long-term dehydration can result in dry hair.

The Most Common Causes Of Renal Failure In Cats

  1. Infection – Bacterial, viral and sometimes fungal infections can damage the kidney resulting in loss of function.
  2. Cancer – Feline lymphoma (sometimes caused by feline immunodeficiency virus) can affect the kidney and result in loss of function.
  3. Toxins – True lilies and day lilies are a common cause of kidney damage in cats after the cat eats the plant. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also cause kidney damage when not used appropriately.
  4. Genetics – Some breeds such as the Persians or Himalayan can be predisposed to polycystic kidney disease. These cats are born with kidneys that have many cysts affecting the function of the kidney.

Tests For Diagnosing Renal Failure In Cats

Blood and urine analysis, urine culture and blood pressure are the initial tests for cats with suspected renal failure. Other tests can include x-rays, which can help look for mineralization of the kidney and can give an overall impression of the size of the kidney. Ultrasound allows greater detail to be seen and can identify very early mineralization of the kidneys.

Treatment of Renal Failure In Cats

Treatment for cat renal failure will depend on the stage of the disease. Medications that affect the kidney are stopped, and antibiotics are used to treat infections of the kidney. High blood pressure is a common problem for cats with kidney disease. If the blood pressure is not initially high, it should be routinely checked as it could rise in the future.

Cats that are physically ill will require hospitalization and intravenous therapy to help try to flush the toxins out of the body. The success of this treatment will vary according to how much kidney function remains.

Diet is the mainstay of treatment of cats with renal failure who are otherwise stable. A diet with a high-quality protein and restricted phosphorus level are key.Veterinary dietsare the most helpful for these patients as they are formulated specifically for renal patients.

Prognosis For Renal Failure In Cats

If found early and the damage is not advanced, cats with renal failure can live for a number of years. As the damage progresses, the life expectancy decreases. In some cases they may not survive more than a few days after diagnosis.

If you think your cat has signs of renal failurecall your veterinariannow. The sooner you receive the diagnosis, the sooner you will be able to help them.

Yours in health,

Dr. Kent Morley