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What Are the Symptoms of a Cat With Kidney Failure?

María Besteiros
By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. August 31, 2020
What Are the Symptoms of a Cat With Kidney Failure?

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Kidney failure in cats is common in older cats. When untreated, this could bring more serious health issues. When chronic, there is no cure. However, by detecting kidney failure early on we can find the right treatment for our cat and improve their quality of life.

In this AnimalWised article we're going to go through the symptoms of a cat with kidney failure. We will also explain what kidney failure in cats is, the causes and possible treatment. Continue reading to learn more!

You may also be interested in: How Long Does a Cat with Kidney Failure Live?
  1. What is kidney failure in cats?
  2. Stages of kidney failure in cats
  3. Symptoms of kidney failure in cats
  4. Treatment of kidney failure in cats
  5. Is there a natural treatment for kidney failure in cats?
  6. Can kidney failure in cats be cured?

What is kidney failure in cats?

Kidney failure occurs when one or both kidneys fail. It is not a specific disease, but a syndrome that reduces the functionality of the kidneys.

The renal system plays a very important role in the body, since it is responsible for filtering the blood and eliminating waste substances through the urine. When the kidneys begin to fail, they usually compensate until the damage is so advanced that symptoms appear, which are due to the accumulation of toxic substances.

For this reason, when the cat arrives at the vet, it is usually already very sick. The disease has been brewing for months and even years. Hence, it is recommended for cats to do blood and urine tests at least once a year once they are approximately seven years old.

Causes of kidney failure in cats

There are certain factors that have been linked to chronic kidney disease in cats. The most important one is simply age. As cats age, they are more prone to kidney failure. Other causes may include:

  • Polycystic kidney disease, which is the most common congenital pathology. It mainly affects the Persian cat and its crosses.
  • Bacterial pyelonephritis.
  • Uroliths, also known as stones, in the upper urinary tract.
  • Chronic viral infections such as leukemia or immunodeficiency.
  • Renal lymphoma.
  • Consumption of unbalanced diets.
  • Poisoning.
  • Ischemia as a result of a decrease in blood flow.

To know the state of your cat's kidneys, the veterinarian will perform a urine and a blood test. Ultrasound scans can also be done. This determines how well the kidneys are working and the extent of damage. Then, your veterinarian will be able to determine the best treatment for your cat.

Stages of kidney failure in cats

Kidney disease can be serious, depending on what stage your cat is in. The IRIS classification, International Renal Interest Society, consists in four stages, each with their own characteristics and some recommendations for treatment. They are as follows:

  • Stage 1: implies a creatinine value lower than 1.6, with SDMA not higher than 18. There is no azotemia, which is the increase of certain substances in the urine.
  • Stage 2: creatinine is between 1.6 and 2.8. SDMA is between 18 and 25. There is mild azotemia but no clinical signs. In other words, the cat appears to be healthy. From this stage on the administration of a specific diet is recommended.
  • Stage 3: is characterized by a creatinine between 2.9 and 5 and an SDMA between 26 and 38. Azotemia is moderate and some symptoms of the disease begin to appear.
  • Stage 4: Creatinine is greater than 5 and SDMA is greater than 38. There is also severe azotemia.
What Are the Symptoms of a Cat With Kidney Failure? - Stages of kidney failure in cats

Symptoms of kidney failure in cats

Kidney failure causes different symptoms that we can detect. Initially, the symptoms are difficult to observe as they are quite mild so they can go unnoticed. This is why, it's not unusual for a cat to be advanced in their kidney failure when finally brought to the veterinarian.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it's best to bring your cat to the vet as soon as possible. The symptoms for when a cat is suffering from acute renal failure are:

  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Anorexia
  • Increase in the amount of urine or, conversely, the cat stops urinating. These have a worse prognosis.
  • Vomiting
  • Drop in temperature
  • Diarrhea
  • Signs at the neurological level

Detecting any of these symptoms is a good reason to urgently go to the vet. Otherwise, the cat may die. On the other hand, the clinical signs that can make us suspect of chronic renal failure worsen over time and are the following:

  • Increase in water consumption
  • Increased urine output
  • Dehydration
  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Bad appearance of the coat
  • Anemia
  • Hypertension
  • Weight loss
  • Halitosis, bad smell on the breath
  • Wounds in the mouth
  • Weakness

Treatment of kidney failure in cats

The treatment of kidney failure is based on a specific diet and medication to control the symptoms. Food and hydration are key aspects, as well having their veterinarian monitor their progress. Your veterinarian will need to perform regular check-ups in order to control the evolution of the disease.

In this pathology, their diet should be considered medicine as it directly affects the progression of the disease. We must also make sure our cat is well hydrated. Your veterinarian will most likely recommend feeding them high quality wet food. They will also explain other guidelines so that your cat consumes the correct diet.

On the other hand, if your cat suffers from acute kidney failure, as it is an emergency the first thing to do is stabilize your cat's condition. To do this, it is usually essential to admit them to the veterinary centre to administer fluids and drugs intravenously.

Lastly, kidney transplants are being done in certain countries like the United States. It's not a common practice as it requires an ethical assessment, as a kidney must be extracted from a healthy cat. Nevertheless, good results have been reported.

What Are the Symptoms of a Cat With Kidney Failure? - Treatment of kidney failure in cats

Is there a natural treatment for kidney failure in cats?

Scientific evidence suggests to opt for a specific homemade diet, recommended by the veterinarian. This will be healthier than most commercial wet food for cats. Nevertheless, when cooking these meals for our cats, we must be mindful of their nutritional needs. It's very important we follow the veterinarian's guidelines.

Regarding the treatment of other symptoms, homemade herbs and therapy have not shown effectiveness. This is why it's best to opt for the medicine recommended by the veterinarian. As this can be a fatal disease, we must be very careful how we deal with their treatment.

We must emphasise the importance of going to your veterinarian and allowing them to do their job. They will professionally examine, diagnose and find the best treatment for your cat's condition. As they are professionals that have dedicated their life to their work, it's best we trust them with our cat's health journey.

Can kidney failure in cats be cured?

Kidney failure is always treatable, but that doesn't mean it can be cured. If loss of functional kidney tissue has occurred, the damage is irreversible. These cats will need lifelong treatment, and even then, the disease will continue to progress.

Life expectancy from diagnosis is around 2-3 years, but it is highly variable depending on the situation of each cat. So if your cat has kidney failure, focus on offering them a good quality of life. Their well-being is more important than the years they live.

On the other hand, acute failure can lead to rapid death of the cat. Even if the appropriate veterinary treatment is initiated, the specimens that do not respond favourably in 24-48 hours usually die. Cats that recover can go on to suffer from chronic kidney failure.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to What Are the Symptoms of a Cat With Kidney Failure?, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

  • Elliott and Sargent. (2020). Detection of early chronic kidney disease in cats . Veterinary Focus. Issue 30.1.
  • Sheri J. Ross, Carl A. Osborne, Claudia A. Kirk, Stephen R. Lowry, Lori A. Koehler, and David J. Polzin. (2006). Clinical evaluation of dietary modification for treatment of spontaneous chronic kidney disease in cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 229:6, 949-957.
  • Adams LG, Polzin DJ, Osborne CA, O'Brien TD. Effects of dietary protein and calorie restriction in clinically normal cats and in cats with surgically induced chronic renal failure. Am J Vet Res. 1993;54(10):1653-1662.
  • Gregory CR, Gourley IM, Kochin EJ, Broaddus TW. Renal transplantation for treatment of end-stage renal failure in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1992;201(2):285-291.
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What Are the Symptoms of a Cat With Kidney Failure?