Cats and Kidney Failure

Kidney problems can be a real problem for cats. And just like in humans, a cat’s kidneys carry out a variety of very important functions.

For example, they help manage blood pressure, they make hormones, stimulate the bone marrow to make more red blood cells and also remove waste from the blood.

Typically, a cat’s kidneys can begin to fail as they get older, however, kidney problems can strike a cat at any age.

Left untreated, kidney issues can lead to life-threatening health problems.

If kidney problems become chronic, unfortunately, there is currently no cure available.

That’s why catching it early is your best bet.

Because with an early diagnosis and good care you can improve your cat’s health and extend their life.

And like I said before older cats aren’t the only ones at risk for kidney disease.

Some kittens are born with kidney problems, they can also be brought on by trauma or infections.

There are two known types of kidney failure in cats.

Each type is caused by different things, has a different treatment approach and a different potential outcome.

  1. Acute renal failure is a type of kidney failure that comes out of nowhere. It can develop suddenly, within a matter of days or weeks and it can occur in cats at any age.

This type of kidney failure is usually caused by:

  • Poisons, which by the way is the most common cause of acute renal failure. Things like antifreeze, toxic plants, pesticides, cleaning fluids, and certain human medications are extremely dangerous to your cat’s kidneys. Even one ibuprofen tablet can lead to your cat’s kidneys shutting down. Always check your home in your garage or anywhere you store potentially dangerous materials for these substances and make sure your cat can’t get into them
  • Trauma is another cause especially when it involves a broken pelvis or a burst bladder.
  • The shock from losing a lot of blood due to some type of trauma or extreme and rapid dehydration, overheating, a significant increase in activity as well as vomiting, and diarrhea can all cause sudden drops in fluid.
  • Kidney infections.
  • Any disruption of blood flow to the kidney or a urinary tract blockage.
  • Heart failure coupled with low blood pressure can reduce blood flow to the kidneys as well.

If you’re able to get your cat to the vet in time, acute renal failure can be stopped and reversed.

However, chronic kidney problems can be a lot harder to treat.

Chronic kidney issues are also mostly found in middle-aged and older cats, typically developing over months and sometimes years. If your cat is over the age of 7, you’ll want to keep an eye on their kidney health.

While the primary causes of chronic kidney disease aren’t always evident, even to the professional, they most often include:

  • Recurrent kidney infections and urinary blockages, these conditions may not result in acute renal failure but can damage your cat’s kidney function slowly over months or years
  • Other conditions include advanced dental disease, high blood pressure, thyroid issues, and even cancer.  

Here are 11 signs your cat’s kidneys may be in trouble

  • Frequent urinating. While you may think it’s normal for your cat to urinate a lot, it can actually mean they may no longer be able to hold fluids. If you find them urinating outside of the litter box this may also be an early sign. We suggest cat litter liners in this scenario.
  • Excessive thirst. This usually means that your cat is feverishly trying to replace lost fluids.
  • Recurrent kidney infections. These typically develop much more easily due to the diluted urine the failing kidneys are producing.  
  • Rapid weight loss and/or a decreased appetite.
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, and bloody or cloudy urine.
  • The appearance of ulcers in their mouth, especially on their gums and tongue.
  • An ammonia-like odor on their breath.
  • A tongue that is a brownish color.
  • Dry and brittle hair.
  • Constipation.
  • General appearance of weakness and overall indifference.

If you notice any of these signs your vet can do blood and urine testing as well as x-rays, an ultrasound or even a tissue biopsy to make an accurate diagnosis.

If they diagnose kidney disease, treatments can range from surgical removal of any blockages to IV fluids to putting your cat on a special diet and/or medication.

The good news is that with a carefully selected diet, lost of clean fresh water and a peaceful and nurturing environment, you can help your cat manage their kidney issues and live their best life possible.