Kidney failure can severely impact your cat's kidneys and other related organs. Here, our Burlington and Bellingham vets talk about the signs and symptoms of kidney failure in cats and the treatment options that may be available.
Cat Kidney Failure
Kidney failure (also called renal failure) could be the result of various conditions that can affect a cat's kidneys or other related organs.
Healthy kidneys eliminate waste from the blood, maintain a normal electrolyte balance, regulate hydration and calcium, manage blood pressure and stimulate the production of red blood cells. If your cat experiences kidney failure, it means its kidneys aren't functioning efficiently.
The Different Types of Cat Kidney Failure
There are two types of kidney failure in cats. They both have different causes, treatment methods, and prognoses.
Acute Renal Failure
This type of kidney failure occurs suddenly, within days or weeks. It can happen in cats of any age and is generally the result of poisons, disorders, diseases, organ failure, medications, or other causes.
Acute renal failure can often be reversed if diagnosed early enough.
Chronic Kidney Failure
With chronic kidney failure, the kidneys gradually stop working over months or years as they lose the ability to filter the blood of toxins. This type of kidney failure can cause total kidney failure.
How Cats Get Kidney Failure
The filtering system in your cat’s kidneys consists of thousands of microscopic tubes (nephrons). While a kidney will still work if some nephrons are damaged, if too many nephrons stop working too suddenly for the good nephrons to compensate, the kidneys can fail.
When cats have kidney failure, the blood of the dangerous toxins will stop being cleared from their body. Though a cat’s kidneys may start failing with age, they aren’t the only ones at risk (as noted above).
Here are some common causes of both acute and chronic kidney failure in cats:
- Specific medications (some chemotherapy drugs or antibiotics)
- Ingestion of toxins or harmful substances (toxic plants, antifreeze, rat poison, human medications)
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Acute Kidney Failure
- Bacterial infection (the urinary tract becomes infected with bacteria, which travel to the kidneys)
- Trauma (ruptured bladder or broken pelvis)
- Clotting disorders
- Shock (from losing an excessive amount of blood quickly, overheating, vomiting, diarrhea, and more)
- Heart failure
- Illnesses such as cancer
Chronic Kidney Failure
- Cysts (which grow and destroy tissues in the kidneys)
- Autoimmune diseases (in which the immune system attacks the body’s organs)
Signs & Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Cats
If your cat’s kidneys aren’t removing waste from its body, you may notice many signs. General symptoms of kidney failure in cats can include:
- Excess thirst
- Lack of appetite
- Bad breath
- Weight loss
- Vomiting (may contain blood)
- Diarrhea (may contain blood)
In addition to this, signs of acute kidney failure include an arched back or stiff-legged gait (a symptom that your cat’s kidneys are causing pain), and either frequent or no urination.
Because chronic kidney failure can gradually progress over years, you might not notice it. By the time you see symptoms, the disease may already have advanced.
However, with appropriate treatment, some cats with chronic kidney failure can live a good quality of life for years to come.
Symptoms of chronic kidney failure include easy bruising or bleeding, and increased urination.
End-Stage Kidney Failure Symptoms In Cats
Sometimes, the signs of kidney failure in cats are not caught early enough and the disease progresses to its end stage. Symptoms of end-stage kidney failure in cats include the general symptoms detailed above, as well as dull, sunken eyes, an inability to walk, body odor, incontinence in the bladder or bowels seizures, confusion, refusal to eat or drink, twitching, blindness, pacing, restlessness, withdrawing, hiding and running away.
However, while more than one of these symptoms will be present, you may not see all of them. There may also be a sudden improvement in their symptoms, but do not let this fool you.
With kidney failure, there are no easy answers, as different symptoms may be present at different times. These symptoms can also be signs of other illnesses, which is why early diagnosis, disease management, and communication with your vet are imperative.
When it comes to the symptoms of kidney failure, the stage of your cat's condition is key to the prognosis. While there is no cure for chronic kidney disease if it’s detected and treated early, your cat’s longevity and quality of life can be improved.
Treating Cats With Kidney Failure
The goal of treating kidney failure is to slow the progression of the disease and manage the symptoms. Depending on the symptoms and their stages, treatment options may include intravenous fluids to correct dehydration, vitamin injections, medication to manage nausea, supplements to correct low potassium levels, and other measures.
Our Burlington and Bellingham vets are experienced in treating many conditions and diseases in cats, including co-occurring illnesses. Using advanced technology in our in-house lab, our veterinary team can provide same-day testing and results for efficient, effective care.
For cats with end-stage kidney failure, nursing them in their final days will mean keeping them warm and comfortable, with food, water, and a litter box nearby, as well as lots of quiet human companionship.
If your cat is in pain with seizures, regular vomiting, and soiling, you might want to ask your vet if euthanization should be considered. While this is one of the most difficult parts of pet ownership, if all other measures have failed, it might be time.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.