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Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Cats

Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Cats

Your cat's kidneys, related organs, and bodily functions can be severely impacted by kidney failure. Our Fort Pierce vets have compiled a list of symptoms, potential causes, and treatment options to help you recognize and address this condition.

What is kidney failure in cats?

Renal failure, more commonly known as kidney failure, can arise due to various conditions that impact the kidneys and associated organs. Normally, healthy kidneys filter waste from the blood, regulate electrolyte balance, manage hydration and calcium levels, control blood pressure, and stimulate the production of red blood cells. However, when a cat experiences kidney failure, the kidneys lose their ability to function effectively.

Are there different types of kidney failure in cats?

Cats can experience two distinct types of kidney failure with varying causes, treatment options, and prognosis.

Acute Renal Failure

Kidney failure that happens abruptly within a short period of days or weeks is known as acute renal failure. Cats of all ages can suffer from this condition, which is typically caused by poisons, disorders, diseases, organ failure, medications, and other factors. However, if detected early, acute renal failure can often be reversed.

Chronic Kidney Failure

When someone experiences chronic kidney failure, their kidneys gradually lose their ability to filter toxins from the blood. This process can take several months or years, eventually leading to total kidney failure.

What causes kidney failure in cats?

Did you know that your cat's kidneys have thousands of tiny tubes (nephrons) that filter their blood? Although a few damaged nephrons won't affect their kidney function, if too many stop working suddenly, their kidneys can fail. The primary sign of kidney failure is the inability to remove toxins from their bloodstream. Age is one factor that may contribute to kidney failure, but other causes can also increase the risk. Here are some common causes of both acute and chronic kidney failure in cats:

  • Acute Kidney Failure
  • Ingestion of toxins or harmful substances (toxic plants, antifreeze, rat poison, human medications)
  • Dehydration
  • Bacterial infection (the urinary tract becomes infected with bacteria, which travel to the kidneys)
  • Illnesses such as cancer
  • Clotting disorders
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Heart failure
  • Blockages
  • Specific medications (some chemotherapy drugs or antibiotics)
  • Trauma (ruptured bladder or broken pelvis)
  • Shock (from losing an excessive amount of blood quickly, overheating, vomiting, diarrhea and more)

Chronic Kidney Failure

  • Genetics
  • Blockages
  • Autoimmune diseases (in which the immune system attacks the body's organs)
  • Cysts (which grow and destroy tissues in the kidneys)

Symptoms of Kidney Failure

If your cat's kidneys aren't removing waste from his or her body, you may notice many signs. General symptoms of kidney failure in cats can include:

  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression
  • Bad breath
  • Diarrhea (may contain blood)
  • Vomiting (may contain blood)
  • Dehydration
  • Excess thirst

Additionally, indications 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 may gradually progress over years, you may not notice it. By the time you see symptoms, the disease may already have advanced.

However, with appropriate treatment some cats that have experienced chronic kidney failure live a good quality of life for years to come.

Symptoms of chronic kidney failure include easily bruising or bleeding, and increased urination.

What are the symptoms of end stage kidney failure in cats?

It can be difficult to detect kidney failure in cats early on, which can lead to the disease progressing to its end stage. Signs of end stage kidney failure in cats include general symptoms mentioned previously, as well as dull, sunken eyes, inability to walk, body odor, incontinence in bladder or bowels, seizures, confusion, refusal to eat or drink, twitching, blindness, pacing and restlessness, withdrawing, hiding, and running away.

It is important to note that not all of these symptoms may be present at once, and there may be sudden improvements in their condition that should not be mistaken for a cure. Since these symptoms can also indicate other illnesses, it is crucial to seek early diagnosis, disease management, and communication with your veterinarian.

The prognosis for kidney failure in cats depends on the stage of the disease. While there is no cure for chronic kidney disease, early detection and treatment can improve your cat's quality of life and longevity.

How is kidney failure in cats treated?

Treating kidney failure aims to slow down the disease progression and alleviate symptoms. Depending on the stage and severity of symptoms, treatment options may include intravenous fluids to correct dehydration, vitamin injections, medication for nausea management, supplements to correct low potassium levels, and other measures. Our veterinary team in Fort Pierce has extensive experience in treating various conditions and diseases in cats, including concurrent illnesses. With the aid of advanced technology in our in-house lab, we can perform same-day testing and provide prompt results for efficient and effective care.

For cats in end-stage kidney failure, providing them with comfort and warmth in their final days is crucial, along with access to food, water, and a litter box, and plenty of quiet human companionship.

If your cat is experiencing seizures, regular vomiting, and soiling, and is in pain, it is advisable to discuss with your vet whether euthanasia should be considered. While this is undoubtedly the toughest aspect of pet ownership, it may be necessary if all other measures have failed.

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. 

Is your cat showing signs of kidney disease or other serious illness? At Fort Pierce vets can diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions. Book an appointment today.

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