Chronic kidney disease is the gradual loss of kidney function and is one of the most common diseases in cats that affects senior cats. It can affect all ages and breeds and is most common in cats over the age of 9 years and in Abyssinian and Persian breeds.
The term “renal” and “kidney” are used interchangeably. Some writers use the term chronic kidney failure (CKF) while others write chronic renal failure (CRF).
We will address Chronic Kidney Failure in cats in this article. For more information about acute kidney disease, go to Acute Renal (Kidney) Failure in Cats.
What Chronic Kidney Disease Is
The cat's urinary tract is a system made up of the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder and urethra. A cat has two kidneys that sit in the abdomen. They are bean-shaped organs that contain hundreds of nephrons that are microscopic filtering units. These units have the ability to form urine.
When the kidneys function normally, they filter excess fluids and wastes from the blood. These wastes are then excreted in the cat's urine. As the kidney disease progresses and reaches an advanced stage, dangerous levels of electrolytes, wastes, and fluids can build up in your cat's body. Changes that result from kidney failure can affect almost every system.
How To Identify Symptoms In Your Cat
Signs of chronic kidney failure can vary from cat to cat and are often vague and can mimic the signs of other diseases. Common signs of chronic kidney failure in cats include:
- Decreased appetite or loss of appetite
- Increased or decreased thirst
- Increased or decreased urination - most often decreased urine production
- Less engaged with family
- Lethargy or sleeping more
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and incoordination
- Weight loss
Tests to Evaluate Kidney Function
Diagnostic tests to evaluate kidney function may include:
- A complete blood count (CBC) may be within normal limits, but an elevated white blood cell count may be present if there is also secondary infection.
- A biochemical profile may reveal elevations in kidney enzymes or electrolyte abnormalities.
- A urinalysis may reveal diluted urine, blood, white blood cells, protein or bacteria in the urine.
- Symmetric Dimethylarginine (SMDA) Blood Testing (INSERT LINK) is a test used to help diagnose early stages of renal failure.
- A bacterial urine culture is performed to confirm a urinary tract infection.
- Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) are an important part of any baseline work-up. Although they may be within normal limits, they may reveal changes in kidney size, urinary calculi, or help to rule out other diseases and causes of the cat's clinical signs.
- Abdominal ultrasound is recommended in most cases suspect of having kidney disease. It is helpful in evaluating the kidney and potentially differentiating between upper and lower urinary tract infection. It is a noninvasive procedure that often necessitates the expertise of a specialist and/or referral hospital.
- Blood pressure is recommended for all cats with kidney disease.
How Pet Insurance Can Help You Cover Treatment
Treatment for chronic kidney disease focuses on slowing the progression of kidney damage, usually by controlling the underlying cause. Chronic kidney disease can progress to end-stage kidney failure, which is fatal without artificial filtering (dialysis) or a kidney transplant which are uncommon treatments in cats.
The cost of care can vary depending on the severity of the disease in your cat. Some cats that show severe symptoms of illness will require hospitalization with intravenous fluids, medications to control nausea and vomiting, medications to stimulate the appetite, and other symptomatic treatment as needed.
Cost of care can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Because this condition is chronic, it requires ongoing care and monitoring. Some cats will have their bloodwork rechecked periodically and other symptomatic care such as subcutaneous (SQ) fluid therapy. Some cat owners routinely give SQ fluid therapy at home. For more information about the diagnosis and treatment, go to Chronic Renal (Kidney) Failure in Cats.