Symptoms Of Kidney Failure In Cats
If your cats kidneys arent removing waste from his or her body, you may notice that your cat is drinking more water and attempting to urinate more. Because the toxins build up in the cat’s body, they may feel nauseous and stop eating their food. In general, your cat will appear to be lethargic and not very happy.
General symptoms of kidney failure in cats can include:
- Bad breath
If your cat is suffering from acute kidney failure you may also notice an arched back or stiff-legged gait, symptoms that your cats kidneys are causing pain.
Chronic kidney failure gradually progresses over years, and the signs may not be noticeable. By the time you do see symptoms, the disease may already be leading to total kidney failure.
While there is no cure for chronic kidney disease, if its detected and treated early your cats longevity and quality of life can be improved.
Symptoms of End Stage Kidney Failure in Cats
Symptoms of end stage kidney failure in cats include dull sunken eyes, inability to walk, body odour, incontinence in bladder or bowels, refusal to eat or drink, seizures, confusion, pacing and restlessness, withdrawing, hiding and running away.
Though more than one of these symptoms will be present, you may not see all of them in your cat. With kidney failure, there are no easy answers, as different symptoms may be present at different times.
What Are The Clinical Signs Of Chronic Kidney Failure
When disease or advanced age causes the filtration process to become inefficient and ineffective, blood flow to the kidneys is increased in an attempt to increase filtration. The body must increase the amount of blood flowing through the kidneys since less and less of the metabolic toxins are being removed each time. This results in the production of more urine. To keep the dog from becoming dehydrated due to increased fluid loss in the urine, thirst and water consumption is increased.
Thus, one of the earliest clinical signs of kidney failure is increased water consumption and urination, and is called compensated renal failure. After approximately 2/3 of the kidney tissue is destroyed, there is a rapid rise in waste products in the bloodstream and an apparent sudden onset of severe disease. The clinical signs of more advanced kidney failure include loss of appetite, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, and very bad breath. Occasionally, ulcers will be found in the mouth.
What Is Involved In The First Phase Of Treatment
In the first phase, high doses of intravenous fluids are given to “flush out” the kidneys and bloodstream. This flushing process is called diuresis and helps mildly damaged kidney cells to function again by removing the toxic metabolites and creating a healthier environment for healing.
If enough functional kidney cells remain, they may be able to adequately meet the body’s needs for filtration and waste removal. Fluid therapy includes replacement of various electrolytes, especially potassium. Other important aspects of initial treatment include proper nutrition and drugs to control vomiting and diarrhea. Your dog will often begin to feel better soon after this stage of treatment is begun.
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What Is The Treatment
There is no cure. Treatment aims to minimise the symptoms, by reducing toxin production, keeping salt levels normal, and slowing the rate of ongoing damage. Cats that are unwell and severely dehydrated may benefit from intravenous fluids to re-hydrate and flush out toxins. If improvement does not follow, then kidney damage may be severe, and you should consider the options carefully with your vet. Home nursing is very important. The toxins produce nausea, loss of appetite and sometimes mouth and stomach ulcers. Tempting food, such as fresh fish or chicken, warmed and given by hand may help. If loss of appetite is long-term, your cats quality of life becomes questionable and should be discussed with your vet.
How Does Kidney Failure Occur
Kidney failure occurs when at least two-thirds of each kidney is damaged. With this much damage, the kidneys cannot perform their essential functions.
Kidney failure can be acute or chronic.
Acute kidney failure occurs when the kidneys suddenly stop working. Some of the many causes of acute kidney failure are toxin ingestion and shock.
Chronic kidney failure, also called chronic kidney disease, develops over many years. It usually begins when cats are about six years old and becomes progressively worse as the nephrons slowly die. When more nephrons die than can be replaced, kidney failure becomes apparent.
Chronic kidney failure is much more common than acute kidney failure in cats, so well focus on chronic kidney failure.
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New Treatment For High Blood Pressure In Cats
Did you know that the kidneys secrete a hormone that regulates blood pressure? Cats that suffer from severe kidney problems tend to have high blood pressure that puts undue stress on internal organs, including the heart, lungs and retinas.
Oftentimes, they will require kidney medication for cats, like Amlodipine, to lower blood pressure. While Amlodipine is still the mainstay of treatment, sometimes it is not enough to lower blood pressures adequately.
If this is a problem in your cat, ask your veterinarian about a new drug called Semintra, which can help normalize blood pressure in cats that arent responding well to Amlodipine.
Cat Has Lack Of Energy
When our cats are nearing the end of their life, they will often experience a lack of energy.
They may not be as willing to do things they once loved, and you may find them sleeping the days away.
If its becoming harder and harder to get your cat up and moving each day, you may need to discuss your cats quality of life with your veterinarian.
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Nursing The Cat In End Stage Kidney Failure
Nursing is an essential part of caring for a seriously ill cat. You should keep the cat indoors for her own protection. Bed the cat down on a comfortable padded surface, such as Vetbed or a puppy pad on top of blankets. Check the cat regularly in case she has soiled and is lying in urine. If she is not moving around, encourage her to change position when awake to reduce the risk of bedsores. She may feel the cold easily, so ensure the room is warm or provide a heat mat.
The cat will not want to walk far so place a litter box, food, and water within easy reach. Most sick cats feel better for a gentle brush and having their eyes, nose, and mouth wiped clean with damp cotton wool. Let her rest but also provide quiet companionship and fuss when she is awake.
|“Today I made the decision to put my Mister down. It wasn’t fair to him to prolong the inevitable. The vet was amazing and I held him through the entire process. I have a huge gaping hole in heart but I know that I did the right thing.” — Reader comment from Sherry Purdue|
Cat Has Vomiting Or Diarrhea
Sometimes a dying cat will experience serious gastrointestinal issues near the end of their life.
Whether its due to a chronic medical condition or not, these symptoms can cause a serious drop in their overall health.
If your cat is experiencing chronic vomiting or diarrhea in their old age, it may be time to let them go.
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How Is Kidney Failure Treated
While not curable, kidney failure in cats is treated using a range of therapies, with most aiming to reduce the kidneys workload, minimize waste products in the blood, replace lost nutrients, and manage clinical signs. Subcutaneous fluids are often administered to cats who have become dehydrated.
Chronic kidney failure is not curable. Treatment goals include reducing the kidneys workload, minimizing waste products from the blood, replacing lost nutrients, and managing clinical signs.
Treatments can generally be grouped into dietary changes and medications. Be aware that not every cat in kidney failure will need every available treatment.
Causes Of Kidney Failure In Cats
There are several of causes of kidney failure in cats, which vary depending on the type the cat is experiencing. These causes include:
- Poisons, such as antifreeze, pesticides or cleaning fluids
- Heart failure with low blood pressure that prevents enough blood from flowing to the kidneys
- Trauma from an accident
- Shock from dehydration or rapid blood loss
- Kidney infection
- Repeated urinary infections that wear the kidneys down over time
- Kidney cancer
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Euthanasia And Renal Failure: Knowing When Your Cat Is Ready To Go
How renal failure impacts your cat may influence your decision to euthanize your pet.
Sadly, all cats do not respond positively to the treatment of renal failure.
And, most people dont want to see their cat suffer.
So, how much suffering is too much?
Only you can make the decision.
Your veterinarian will be there to help you decide from a clinical perspective, but the decision is a personal one only you can make.
What makes the decision confusing is at one instance your cat may appear to be moments from dying, yet with the right treatment, able to bounce back and regain most of his health.
If you are financially able to exhaust all medical options and your cat still doesnt respond favorably, euthanasia may be the best gift you can give your sick cat.
The best indicators of a favorable response to treatment are:
- Good appetite
- Strength and stamina
- Minimal weight loss.
Most cats with renal failure will progressively lose weight over time in spite of your best efforts.
Indications your cat is not responding to treatment:
- Hiding, acting differently, mental confusion
- Sudden weight loss and loss of energy
- Dull, sunken eyes or blindness
- Refusal to eat and very bad breath
Blood work may reveal your cat has low potassium levels, high phosphorus levels, and very high BUN and creatinine levels.
However, I caution you against making the decision to euthanize your cat based on bloodwork results only.
Remember, each cat is different.
Symptoms Of The Final Stages Of Kidney Failure In Cats
The most common symptoms:
- Low potassium levels, high phosphorus levels, and very high urea and creatinine levels
Cats experience many of the above symptoms throughout each progressive stage of kidney failure.
As cats get closer to death the symptoms become much more severe.
Kidney disease escalates through four stages, and symptoms escalate as well.
Watching your beloved pet suffer more and more may become intolerable.
However, symptoms alone are not a direct indication your cat needs euthanasia.
A cat can appear to be moments from death, and with the right treatment, able to regain most of its health.
If you are able, exhaust all options, such as extended IVs and sub-Qs.
Your veterinarian can assess the effectiveness of the prescribed treatments by doing additional blood work.
When treatment fails to improve the blood work of your cat, it is time to start preparing for the end.
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Is There A Treatment For Acute Kidney Failure In Cats
If your cat is diagnosed with acute kidney failure , your veterinarian will recommend hospitalization.
In acute kidney failure, toxins are building up in a cats bloodstream due to the kidneys inability to function. Acute kidney failure also causes electrolyte imbalances and severe dehydration. Because of these dangerous factors, a cat will need to be on IV fluids in order to help flush the toxins in their system and take some of the stress off of the kidneys.
Most cats require a minimum of 48 hours on IV fluids to see changes in their blood work.
Acute kidney failure can also cause a list of uncomfortable symptoms, so they will also receive supportive care during their stay.
Acute kidney failure is a serious situation, so there is no guarantee that aggressive hospitalization will reverse this condition. Though survival is not guaranteed, aggressive care is the only way to possibly combat acute kidney failure.
Types Of Kidney Failure Seen In Cats
There are two types of kidney failure in cats. Each type differs in causes, treatment options and prognosis.
Acute Renal Failure
If your cat is suffering from acute kidney failure, it means that their kidneys are suddenly unable to function properly. This type of kidney failure occurs suddenly, within days or weeks. If diagnosed in time, acute renal failure can often be reversed.
It can happen in cats of any age and typically results from poisons, trauma, infection, organ failure, urethral blockages, dehydration and other causes. Poisons, such as toxic plants, pesticides, cleaning fluids and human medications, are the most common cause of acute renal failure.
Chronic Kidney Failure
Chronic kidney failure in cats is a gradual condition that typically develops over several months or even years. This type of kidney failure is typically caused by autoimmune diseases, cysts in the kidneys, and genetics.
Chronic kidney failure is a progressive illness that can lead to total kidney failure, where the kidneys gradually stop working as they lose the ability to filter toxins out of the blood.
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Caring For A Cat Whose Kidneys Have Failed
Feline kidney failure sickens and kills more older cats than any other condition. Because most of its causes are still unknown, prevention is almost impossible. Its symptoms are severe, and with few exceptions, it’s incurable and ultimately fatal.
But despite that grim picture, feline kidney failure is a treatable disease. And while many animal diseases can be treated if the owner has enough money and is willing to spend it, what’s usually needed to treat feline kidney failure is not huge amounts of money, but the willingness and ability to give the cat that care at home.
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“I’ve seen even very sick cats, cats who needed hospitalization in the beginning, do really well on home care with an owner who was willing to give it a try,” said Dr. Patty Khuly, a Miami veterinarian and noted animal health blogger. “What makes the difference in how well a cat with kidney failure does is not how sick they are, or how bad their kidney values are on a blood test. It’s the attitude of the owner.”
After all, most of us find just giving a cat a pill extremely daunting.
But those fluids are critical to a cat in kidney failure. To understand why, it’s helpful to know just what happens when a cat’s kidneys fail.
Kidney failure basics
Getting through it, getting help
And as sick as Munchkin was at first, after two weeks of treatment, she settled into two years of feeling well.
Beyond home care
Stage : Early Kidney Insufficiency
At this early stage, your vet will often find a large amount of protein in your cats urine.
High blood pressure and a creatine level greater than 1.5 will likely be noted.
Treatment at this stage includes annual blood pressure, blood tests, and urine testing.
Dental care recommendations are common to prevent periodontal disease, which can exacerbate renal problems.
Calcitriol therapy will help replace vitamin D.
Abdominal x-rays may be ordered to rule out kidney stones.
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Major Crf Symptoms In Cats
- Increased Thirst: The first symptom I noticed with my cat was an increase in fluid intake. Cats don’t consume water like a dog does they don’t need to. So if you suddenly spot your cat drinking several times a day, this could indicate that something is wrong. To put that in perspective, in the 12 years prior, I’d never once actually *seen* her drink. Suddenly she was drinking half a bowl in one day. This is one of the most common symptoms of CRF, but it could also be symptoms of something else. Regardless, this should be checked asap by a veterinarian.
- Excessive Urination: This is another symptom of CRF and rather a dangerous one as it leads to serious dehydration.
- Nausea, Gagging, and Vomiting: My cat started to vomit intermittently around the time I noticed the increased fluid intake and excessive urination. She wasn’t vomiting food or having difficulty eating, but rather vomiting small amounts of bile.
- Loss of Appetite: My cat didn’t want to eat, and it was very difficult to find anything that she’d even look at, let alone eat.
Treating Your Cat’s End Stage Renal Failure
With less than 10 percent functional kidney tissue left, therapy aims to ease the unpleasant complications of kidney failure. Research on renal disease explains it’s best to maximize quality of life rather than length of life. Sometimes the best that can be hoped is to make the cat comfortable and ease suffering. If therapy fails to help, an owner faces the unenviable decision to say goodbye and save the cat from distress.
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Acute Kidney Injury Acute Renal Failure
Acute renal failure is a serious and usually sudden condition often triggered by an event or insult, such as your cat eating something poisonous like antifreeze or a toxic plant.
Renal failure is usually treated with IV fluids and other medications. If your cat survives the crisis, he or she can often regain all or most of his/her normal kidney function.
How Is Feline Kidney Disease Diagnosed
If you are concerned that your cat may be suffering from kidney disease, even if theyre not showing any of the symptoms listed here, its worth the peace of mind to visit your veterinarian.
She can run a series of tests to either set your mind at ease or diagnose the problem and begin treatment right away.
At the vets office, your kitty will have a series of quick and painless blood tests done, which includes a chemical blood profile and a complete blood count.
Your vet will also perform a urinalysis and complete physical exam.
Anemia is common in cats with chronic kidney disease.
Your vet will also check electrolyte levels and blood pressure.
If your cat is suffering from renal issues, creatine and blood urea nitrogen will be high.
Ultrasound and x-rays are often used to measure the size and shape of cats kidneys.
As you can see above for my Bubs, his left kidney was almost double to size of a normal kidney.
Also see, that you really cant see his right kidney.
Below is another view showing the size of his right kidney versus his left:
Kitties suffering chronic renal failure often have abnormally small kidneys, which are easy to see on ultrasound and x-rays.
In some cases, your vet may decide to do a biopsy.
This small tissue sample is a reliable way to diagnose kidney problems.
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