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Cat Renal Health: Kidney Disease

Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
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Kidney Disease

Kidney disease (renal failure) is a common medical condition in both cats and dogs and can have a wide variety of causes. These include: age, infection, parasites, cancer, inflammation, trauma, poisoning, congenital and inherited disorders, and other factors.

Kidney failure is classified as either acute (sudden onset with severe symptoms), or chronic (slow-onset with fairly nonspecific symptoms). Acute or chronic status typically depends upon the cause. For example, antifreeze toxicity causes acute kidney failure, while chronic kidney failure often occurs with age.

If your cat is in kidney failure, you may notice signs such as increased water consumption, increased (or decreased) urine volume or frequency, blood in the urine, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, poor or unkempt hair coat, hunched-over posture, or a reluctance to move. Should your cat exhibit any of these signs, schedule a veterinary appointment immediately. Through a comprehensive examination and diagnostic testing including blood work, urinalysis, and radiographic imaging, your veterinarian will be able to determine if the cause is kidney failure or some other condition. If your veterinarian diagnoses kidney failure, treatment recommendations will depend upon whether the condition is acute or chronic.

Acute kidney failure is treated with intravenous fluid therapy, appropriate medication, and nutritional adjustment. Hemodialysis may also be necessary. In extreme cases, a kidney transplant may be recommended. With early and aggressive treatment, acute kidney failure may be reversible.

Chronic kidney failure is typically irreversible and will progress over time. However, with proper management, cats with this condition can live very comfortably, often for a number of years. Treatment typically includes supplemental hydration (usually via fluid injected under the skin); a low-protein, nutritionally balanced diet; and medication. Kidney transplants are also sometimes an option. Periodic blood work allows the veterinarian to monitor kidney function and adjust treatment as needed. Cats with chronic kidney failure must receive regular veterinary care to ensure the best quality of life. .

Kidney disease, although relatively common, is not an automatic catastrophe for feline health. Thousands of cats have survived acute kidney failure. And thousands more continue to live relatively normal lives with chronic kidney failure. Proper diagnosis and treatment can help ensure continued health and happiness, even if kidneys are compromised.

If you believe your cat has symptoms of kidney disease - whether acute or chronic - see your veterinarian for a thorough exam.

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