Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), also known in some countries as Chronic Renal Disease, is a common disease affecting more than 1 in 3 older cats. It is usually seen in cats over 10 years old but can affect cats younger than this.
Kidneys have a vital job as they remove waste substances from the blood and maintain the normal balance of fluid and minerals within the body. Essentially, they are a filtration system and create urine as a waste product.
As some cats get older, damage to tissues in the kidneys occur so the kidneys aren’t able to filter the waste effectively and it is returned to the bloodstream, rather than being passed out as urine.
It is only when two thirds of the kidney tissue has deteriorated that symptoms of chronic kidney disease are usually seen. Both kidneys are often affected and one may be worse than the other. Unfortunately, there is no cure for chronic kidney disease in cats but there are ways to slow the progression of the disease.
The symptoms of chronic kidney disease that you will probably have seen in your cat include drinking a lot of water and urinating more frequently – your cat may be asking to go outside to the toilet in the early hours of the morning.
Sometimes, you may not have noticed these changes or your cat may be in the later stages of the disease, which may show as vomiting, weight loss, reduced muscle tone or a greasy appearance to their coat. They may be off their food, have low energy, or your cat may even have an unusual smell about them.
Your vet may stage your cat’s kidney disease, based on blood results, from Stage 1 to Stage 4. Stage 1 being early stages of the disease and Stage 4 being advanced stages of the disease.
How long a cat can live with chronic kidney disease is a difficult question to answer as it very much depends on what stage the cat is in and how quickly the disease progresses but it can be anywhere from 1 year (or less if at very advanced stages of the disease) to over 5 years if identified early on. The most important thing is that anything we can do to slow down the disease progression may help give your cat a longer life.
Please note that if your cat has acute kidney disease, this is a very different disease caused by infection, blockage or toxins and may be treatable so please talk to your vet for more information.