Kidney Disease in Cats Part 1

Grietje,  januari 2000 - december 2010
Know the signs
of kidney failure
One of the most common diseases that affect senior cats is Chronic Renal Failure (CRF), or also known as kidney disease. This condition is progressive though the advancement varies between cats. The life can be prolonged and the quality of life increased by slowing down the disease's progression through right treatment and support.

Cats as young as 4 years of age can have this condition, although it is much common in senior cats. This disease is responsible for most of the deaths in old cats. Around 1 in 5 cats over the age of 15 years has kidney failure. CRF is thrice more common in cats than in dog.


Polydipsia or increased thirst is the first symptom to show in cats with kidney disease. They tend to drink a lot and urinate often (Polyuria). Blood must be drawn for testing once you notice these symptoms for there are various conditions that can cause this. The kidney's loss of ability to concentrate urine causes increase in drinking and urination in CRF. Though kidneys have a big reserve capacity, the signs of kidney disease are only seen when the kidney tissue is already 75% non-functional. 


Specific gravity, urine sample.
Urine Specific Gravity
Lab tests are necessary to properly diagnose CRF. Urinalysis and blood test must be taken at the same time. When the urine of the cat is not concentrated enough and has Azotemia, the cat likely has kidney disease. Azotemia means there is an increase in blood urea nitrogen or BUN and creatinine in the urine. Urine Specific Gravity or USG is the measurement of urine concentration. If a cat has USG of below 1.035 [1.030 in dogs] and is azotemic, then there is abnormality in the kidney function. If a pet is dehydrated, his BUN and creatinine may be high. This is not uncommon in cats who eat lots of dry foods or protein rich diet and during hot weather. A slight increase in BUN and creatinine should not cause for alarm as long as the cat's kidneys are capable of concentrating the urine.


cat and dry food
Dry diet is BAD for
your cat
There is a possible link between vaccines for feline distemper and immune-mediated infammation of kidneys which may be one of the causes of CRF. Discuss all the required vaccines with your veterinarian. A cat with kidney failure should not be vaccinated. Another cause of CRF is long-term feeding of all dry foods which eventually cause stress to kidneys. Dry diets also increase the risk of cats of having FLUTD because they make urine much concentrated. Read more about this diet. Another cause of CRF is recurrent bladder disease.


There is no cure for kidney failure. It is progressive and there is no treatment that could reverse it. Kidney cells are replaced with scar tissue. In advanced cases, the kidneys become small and lumpy with very limited amount of functional tissue. Anemia and built up blood toxins are the most suggestive problems caused by the loss of its function. These result to loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, weakness, and weight loss among others.

Some cats maintain their weight and for months to years they live comfortable lives, while others give in quickly to the disease. There are medications available for anemia and phosphate binders to hinder phosphorus precipitates from damaging the kidneys further. However, this may cause adverse reactions. It is imperative that the cat is on a restricted protein and low phosphorus diet, otherwise medications is of no value. Potassium supplement in food may also be necessary.
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