Kidney failure in cats: symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention


Kidney failure is a chronic disease that attacks a cat’s kidneys. With the advancement of care and knowledge about our domestic felines, they are living longer. That’s a good thing, sure, but on the other hand, they are increasingly affected by kidney failure, which mainly affects older cats. It is important to know how to recognize the symptoms and act accordingly, because this disease affects more than a quarter of the global feline population, and is the leading cause of death.

Knowing how to recognize the symptoms of kidney failure

The main problem is that kidney failure does not cause noticeable symptoms when it occurs. It begins to destroy the kidney as soon as it appears, but the cat behaves as usual during the time that a third of its kidney is still functional. It is only when the last third of the kidney is attacked that the first symptoms appear in cats.

The first thing that can be alarming is noticing the condition of your litter box. If it’s wetter than usual, talk to your vet. It doesn’t have to be kidney failure, but it can be a first sign. He may urinate a lot: this polyuria may be a first sign of kidney failure.

When the disease is a little more declared, the cat will start to drink a lot more than usual (polydipsia), and will be very tired, so he will sleep a lot more than usual.

If the disease is not taken care of in time and lasts for several months, the cat will feed less and less, if not at all. He will lose a lot of weight, not only from lack of nutrition but also from dehydration. The cat will also be anemic (decrease in red blood cells, a consequence of the poor filtering of the blood by the kidneys), and may have ulcers in the mouth, and therefore smell bad.

A cat that drinks and urinates a lot can also have diabetes, so these aren’t necessarily symptoms of kidney failure. However, whether it is for diabetes or for kidney failure, it is better to consult a veterinarian.

Diagnosis of renal failure

The diagnosis of renal failure will be made by a veterinarian. The cat will take a blood test to find out the doses of certain molecules in their body. Indeed, as the kidney no longer works, certain molecules normally eliminated by the kidney, such as creatinine and urea, are present in too high a quantity in the blood.

However, the diagnosis is difficult to make at the right time, because at the onset of the disease, the functioning parts of the kidneys are very good at compensating for the non-functional parts, so toxins are always eliminated, and the disease remains undetectable. It is only when the majority of the kidney is affected (about 70%) that the functional part can no longer compensate, so it is from this moment that we can really detect renal failure.

Treatment of renal failure

Although part of the kidneys are irreversibly destroyed, it is quite possible for the cat to live normally. The vet may need to prescribe medication, but the most important thing is to provide your cat with a suitable diet. Indeed, a cat who has suffered from kidney failure must absorb less protein and minerals than a cat with functioning kidneys, to limit toxins in the blood, such as phosphorus.

For this new food, there are ranges of dry food and wet food, known as “veterinary food”. Several brands make this type of food, but it will only be found in a veterinarian or in certain pet stores, impossible to find in conventional supermarkets, because it is what is called medicated feeding.

You should also no longer give him treats that may increase the toxins in his blood.

However, the cat can sometimes have urea attacks, it will be necessary at these times to take him urgently to the veterinarian to have him infused, and thus filter the toxins too present in his blood and rehydrate him.

How to prevent kidney failure in my cat?

The best way to prevent kidney failure in cats is to take them to the vet regularly. From the age of 8, try to take your cat to the vet once a quarter for a blood and urine test (the best is once a month for safety, but this can quickly become expensive. for you and very painful for your cat). The veterinarian will be able to detect as soon as possible if renal failure is triggering, and thus take charge of the treatment and the change of diet as soon as possible, which will prevent your cat from having too violent crises.

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