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Is Kidney Disease in Cats Serious?

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Is Kidney Disease in Cats Serious?

There’s a strong possibility that eventually your cat will need treatment or management of kidney disease – it’s the #1 cause of death in cats over the age of 10.  In addition, it’s estimated more than half of cats over the age of 15 have reduced kidney function.  What’s even scarier is that your feline friends rarely show any symptoms, and they’re easy to miss when they do.  Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased water intake
  • Urinating outside the litterbox

In addition to producing urine, healthy kidneys are responsible for balancing sodium and potassium, phosphorus and calcium, and pH in the blood, conserving water and protein blood levels, regulating blood pressure, signaling red blood cell production, and removing metabolic waste from the body.  Cats with kidney disease may experience a buildup of waste products and/or acids in their blood that can affect the function of other organ systems causing them to feel ill, appear lethargic, and lose weight. 

Kidney function can be evaluated with an analysis of various urine and blood levels.  Blood tests can determine the concentration of blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine with an increase in concentration suggesting a cat’s kidneys aren’t functioning properly.  A blood test also analyzes the amount and balance of the important minerals noted above.  Urinalysis provides information about urine concentration (urine specific gravity), pH, protein levels, the numbers of red and white blood cells, and if any bacteria or yeast are present.  Ultrasound images can also provide valuable information about kidney size, shape and deformities that may contribute to kidney disease.  It’s important to make sure a cat is fasted and well hydrated before drawing and evaluating blood results because, for example, dehydration can cause higher BUN and creatinine concentrations even though the kidneys are functioning normally.

Sadly, by the time most cats show symptoms – the disease is very advanced – but treatment can help improve blood and urine values so that a good quality of life is maintained.  Depending upon disease severity, aggressive rehydration with intravenous (iv) fluids for multiple days may be needed.  Once rehydrated – and if blood and urine kidney values  improve – there are a number of long-term treatment option to consider including medications to reduce hypertension, regulate sodium, calcium, phosphorous and potassium levels, and stimulate the production of red blood cells; at-home or in-clinic iv fluid administration; and a prescription therapeutic diet.

Early detection of kidney disease is vital so our doctors recommend regular exams and blood and urine testing for cats – especially those 10 years of age or older.  This allows us to take action sooner and slow the progression so Fluffy has the best chance for a long, healthy life.  Please call us today at 630-598-0600 to schedule an exam if you’ve noticed your cat is losing weight or drinking more water than normal.