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Kidney failure in cats: everything you need to know
Kidney failure in cats: everything you need to know

Your cat's kidneys perform many important functions: they help regulate blood pressure, produce hormones, stimulate the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells, and remove waste from the blood. However, they can begin to yield with age. If left untreated, kidney failure can lead to a series of Health problems. Let's find out then everything you need to know on kidney failure in cats.


Types of kidney failure

Renal failure is not only a risk for elderly cats: in addition to aging, there are also other factors that affect cats of all ages (kittens, for example, can even be born with kidney failure).

But let's go in order: there are two types of kidney failure in cats, each with different causes, treatments and prognoses.

Acute Kidney Failure (IRA)

It develops suddenly, sometimes even within a few days. It can strike at all ages and usually has the following causes:

  • Poisoning, which is the most common cause. Antifreeze fluids, some plants (like lilies), pesticides, detergents and some of your medications cause cat poisoning - even a single ibuprofen tablet can lead to failure of their kidneys! Therefore, check your home, garage and garden to prevent your four-legged friend from coming into contact with these substances.
  • Trauma, especially in the case of fractures of the pelvis or rupture of the bladder.
  • Shock due to rapid blood loss or dehydration; overheating of the body in the hottest periods, a significant increase in activity, vomiting and diarrhea can cause loss of fluids.
  • Infections to the kidneys.
  • Obstructions which affect the blood supply to the kidneys and the urine output: urethral blocks, for example, are particularly common in male cats.

The IRA is therefore a symptom of a more extensive problem, and usually it is enough to treat the latter to eliminate it. However, it is not always completely reversible.

cat sleeps on blanket
cat sleeps on blanket

Chronic Kidney Failure (CRI)

Chronic kidney problems are more difficult to treat because symptoms usually only appear at an advanced stage. They are found mainly in the adult and elderly cats, and they develop over the course of months or even years. If your cat is over 7 years old, pay special attention to his health.

If the causes of chronic renal failure are not always clear, even to veterinarians, they include:

  • Advanced age, which progressively damages the function of the kidneys;
  • Kidney infections and obstructions, which may not result in acute renal failure but still slowly weaken them for months and years;
  • Severe dental problems;
  • Hypertension;
  • Tumors;
  • Thyroid problems.


Some signs that your cat may have kidney problems

  • Trend a urinating often, perhaps even outside the litter box: it means that cats are no longer able to retain water in the body;
  • Drink a lot of water: this means that the cat is trying to recover the fluids it has lost by urinating;
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite;
  • Vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, and cloudy or bloody urine;
  • Mouth abscesses, especially on the tongue and gums
  • Bad breath, with the smell of urine;
  • Dark colored tongue;
  • Coat problems
  • Weakness and lethargy.

Diagnosis and treatment

A series of blood and urine tests may be enough for the vet to come up with one precise diagnosis. In case of CRI there is no cure: the only definitive treatments are kidney transplantation and dialysis, unfortunately highly expensive. The alternative consists of a therapy based on drugs that reduce infections and relieve symptoms, but which cannot completely heal the animal. Together with this, a diet with little phosphorus and little protein, but rich in vitamin D and omega-3 is recommended. Always remember to gradually accustom your cat to new foods.

With the right diet, plenty of fresh, clean water, a peaceful environment, and regular checkups, you can help your cat enjoy her later years peacefully.