Feline Kidney Disease Explained

Feline Kidney Disease Explained

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.

Next: Treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RELATED POSTS

Treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease

Treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease

If your cat has been diagnosed with early stages of chronic kidney disease, your vet may also have explained that, although there is no treatment for kidney disease, there are various things you can do to support the kidneys and slow the progression of the disease.  

One of the important things when supporting your cat through this disease, is to ensure your cat has plenty of access to fresh water.  Kidney disease causes your cat to become dehydrated so it’s vital that they have access to plenty of fresh water.  Here are some tips on how to ensure you cat drinks well. 

In addition to fresh water, you can help increase your cat’s water intake by feeding them mainly wet food – meaning tins or pouches.  Cats have an amazing ability to get water from food so providing a food that is already higher in water content (in gravy or jelly for example) is a great way to increase their fluid intake.

Although wet food is ultimately the best option for a cat with chronic kidney disease, it also has some disadvantages.  It can be a much more expensive option to feed them ONLY on wet food and it also can go off quickly when left out in a bowl.  As most cats tend to graze on small portions of food throughout the day, feeding your cat dry food in addition to wet food would be a good compromise if your cat is a grazer.  You can also add some water to the dry food to increase the water content, but only if your cat will eat it this way.  We all know how fussy they can be! 

Your vet may have discussed special kidney or renal foods (known as diets) with you already.  This is a diet specially made to support your cat’s kidneys by containing lower amounts of phosphorus and salt (which can cause damage if high levels build up).  They also support your cat’s natural ability to build lean muscle with a high level of essential amino acids.  These special foods also have other benefits and, although they are more expensive, they have been proven to make a significant difference to the quality of life and, in many situations, life span of a large proportion of cats. 

However, many cats are fussy eaters and when they are feeling unwell with kidney disease, their appetite can already be less than normal.  To then attempt to feed them a new diet can be very challenging and may not be right for your cat.  Only you know your cat well enough to decide whether you think they have it in them to try a new food.  Some cats love the special kidney diets and their blood results have shown improvement in their kidney disease on the diets alone so it can be worth it.  However, the most important thing to remember is that it’s by far more important at this stage to keep your cat eating.  So if they don’t like the food and are refusing to eat it, please offer them their usual food.

More information about the kidney foods available can be found here as well as tips on how best to change your cat onto this food and how to get a fussy cat to eat.

Your vet may also recommend a phosphate binder, which is usually a powder that is mixed into your cat’s food. When kidneys don’t work properly, they don’t remove excess phosphorus from the blood and this can build up causing serious damage to other parts of the body including the bones.  A phosphate binder can help to control the amount of phosphorus absorbed by the body.  You should only give your cat a phosphate binder under direction of your vet.  

Your vet may also prescribe a medication called Benazepril.  This drug has been shown to increase kidney filtration and can also improve a cat’s appetite.  Your vet may prescribe this if your cat has protein in their urine.  This means your cat’s kidneys are filtering out a type of protein in their urine which should be retained by the body. 

If your cat is at the point where they aren’t able to keep up with the fluid they are losing (urinating more out than they can drink in), your vet may recommend they are given fluids either intravenously (into the vein) or sub-cutaneously (under the skin) to correct their fluid balance.  This may require a small stay in hospital and could become a regular treatment to help keep your cat stable. 

 

 

RELATED POSTS

Veterinary Foods for Chronic Kidney Disease

Veterinary Foods for Chronic Kidney Disease

 

There are two main brands of veterinary specific diets which support diseases in dogs and cats, these are Hills and Royal Canin.   

For chronic kidney disease, these foods are called Hills K/D and Royal Canin Renal diets.  Both are essentially the same in terms of how they support your cat through kidney disease.  Most importantly, the food helps by protecting the kidneys from further damage with lower amounts of phosphorus and salt.   They also support your cat’s natural ability to build lean muscle with a high level of essential amino acids.

Now I’m going to show you the difference between the brands of kidney food available and the flavours.  I would offer to try the foods myself but I’m not stupid so, instead, I’m going to use Milo as the taste tester!

 

RELATED POSTS

Monitoring the disease

Monitoring the disease

Your vet has probably recommended regular check ups which will include a history, physical exam and blood and urine tests to monitor the kidney disease.  These are often done 6 monthly or annually but may be done more frequently depending on the health of your cat.   Some vets may also recommend monitoring of your cat’s blood pressure which may require a few hours in the hospital. 

It is a good idea, when your cat is diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, to ask your vet for an approximate cost and frequency of tests so you can plan ahead.  Remember, however, that this will only be an approximate guide as the future will very much depend on your cat’s health.  

These check ups and tests are vital in monitoring the progression of kidney disease as they give the vet an indication of how well the kidneys are filtering waste and how the health of the kidneys is progressing.   This enables your vet to adapt the treatment plan so that your cat has the best chance of a good quality of life.  It can also help to see how well the food or any prescribed medication is helping to manage the disease. 

 

RELATED POSTS

Prevention of Chronic Kidney Disease

Prevention of Chronic Kidney Disease

 There are a number of factors thought to cause Chronic Kidney Disease.  Cats are carnivores so naturally their diet is high in protein which is more challenging for the kidneys.  As well as this, because of the way we love and care for our pets, they are living longer, yet some of their organs aren’t able to keep up with that.

The kidneys can also become affected by other common diseases like hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure and previous urinary tract infections.  As well as this, Persian and oriental cat breeds tend to be genetically prone to getting kidney disease.

Commercial dry foods and lack of water intake over a life time may also play a role in chronic kidney disease.

With all of this in mind, there are a number of things you can do to lower the risks and these include, ensuring your cat has 24/7 access to fresh water, feeding them a good quality diet and ensuring they remain at a healthy weight.

It’s also a great idea to get an annual blood test, especially once your cat is over 8 years old.  This may identify any changes in their kidneys before symptoms are even seen.   

 

 

RELATED POSTS