Kidney disease can be quite common in older cats, and although it usually can’t be cured, spotting the signs early on can greatly increase the chances of slowing down its progress.
PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing explains: “The role of the kidneys is to filter toxic waste products from the blood into the urine so that your cat can pee them away. If the kidneys aren’t working properly, waste products build up and cause illness.”
There are two types of kidney disease to be aware of:
1. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is when the kidneys slowly stop working, often due to ageing but occasionally because something has harmed them in the past.
2. Acute kidney disease is when the kidneys stop working very suddenly, because they have been damaged by something such as a toxic substance (e.g. antifreeze), a drug or an infection.
Nina said: “Chronic kidney disease is much more common. Symptoms of CKD include drinking and peeing more than usual, weight loss, vomiting and eating less.
“Unfortunately, there is no cure for chronic kidney disease but there are many things that can be done to help support the kidneys, especially if it’s caught early.”
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Drinking more than normal
- Peeing more than normal
- Weight loss
- Eating less, or nothing at all
- Vomiting (which can come and go)
- Low energy (lethargy)
- Bad breath with a “urine” smell
- Mouth ulcers
- Messy or matted coat
Nina said: “Owners may put these changes down to the natural ageing process, rather than kidney failure, so may not immediately think to take their cat to their vet but it’s really important to get your cat seen as early as possible to determine if it is CKD.”
Although the affected cat’s kidneys can’t return to normal, there are treatments that can slow the development of CKD and improve a pet’s quality of life.
To diagnose CKD your vet will likely want to run some tests, which may include taking blood and urine samples.
In cases where CKD is quite advanced, your cat may need admitting to hospital for a fluid drip to ‘flush’ the kidneys through.
Your vet may need to prescribe medication to relieve pressure on the kidneys and will usually strongly recommend changing your cat’s diet.
S pecific diets which are made to support kidney function, contain carefully formulated levels of protein, vitamins and minerals and are important because they reduce the filtering work that the kidneys must do.
Drinking plenty of fresh clean water is crucial for cats with CKD, so clean water must be available at all times.
A cat with CKD will need regular monitoring, but by recognising the signs of the disease early on and getting treatment for them, owners can help their cat enjoy a good quality of life for as long as possible.
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