Your cat’s kidneys, like any other organ, have an important role in the body of your cat. There are two different types of kidney failure in cats, acute and chronic. Learn the signs of kidney failure in cats, so that you can do something about it rather sooner than later.
Horrible Own Experience
It is pretty difficult for me right now to write about this illness, because we experienced this illness recently with Nusse. I am not talking about the playful kitten Nusse, but the “old” Nusse that passed away one day after Christmas 2016. Nusse had some urine infection during the summer months and this in itself wasn’t all that alarming as she was anyway suffering a chronic illness from before. We treated the urine infection and hoped that would just get her up and running again.
Nusse was a rescue cat that had suffered cold outdoor temperatures and kept a chronic respiratory illness by that. What we didn’t notice, was that she was losing weight as well. In summer the veterinary didn’t notice this either, as she was overweight before. Nusse was losing weight rapidly the following months. Around November Nusse constantly drank water and naturally made several visits to the litter box too. We thought it would be another urinary tract infection and made an appointment with the vet.
Just before Christmas (and trust me, in Christian Norway they shut every business early this holiday) she was diagnosed Chronic Kidney Failure. According to the veterinary clinic there was little they could do still for her and she was too weak to do any operations on. Nusse barely woke up from the anesthetics.
It was one of the worst Christmas celebrations we experienced. We managed to get a new appointment with a veterinary clinic right after Christmas (27th). We really didn’t celebrate Christmas, but were constantly running after Nusse, giving her renal food and plenty of water and making her as comfortable as possible. On the day after Christmas she unfortunately passed away in Theresa’s arms, just hours before our appointment with the veterinary.
Two Types Of Kidney Failure In Cats
Cats of any age can get a form of kidney failure, although mostly older cats are affected by it. Young kittens can get it through birth and acute kidney failure can happen because of an external event, such as ingestion of toxic matter.
Cats can get two types of kidney failure:
- Acute kidney failure
- Chronic kidney failure
Acute kidney failure
Acute kidney failure usually comes from a sudden change to the cats body, such as a poison, a trauma, shock of blood loss, blockages, dehydration, heart failure and infections. Acute kidney failure can develop within a couple of days up to a couple of weeks. In most cases, an acute kidney failure can be reversed as long as it is detected fast.
Chronic kidney failure
Chronic Kidney failure comes from long-term kidney infections and or blockages which wear down kidney functionality. Chronic kidney failure can also be caused by advanced dental diseases, high blood pressure, thyroid problems and cancer.
What is often not mentioned, is that certain foods such as bad cat food and bad cat treats as well as environmental influences can be part of the development of chronic kidney failure.
There are many environmental toxins that can be outright harmful for cats. It is therefore key in making sure your cat lives in a cat safe environment. A lot of daily things for us, are dangerous for your cat:
- Lilies, flowers that we all have in Easter
- Cleaning agents used for cleaning floors and tops
- Wind wiper fluid, often in garages
- Oils, often in garages and cellars
- Pesticides often found outside, but also inside
- Painkillers such as Ibruprofen
- Raisins and grapes
A while ago I wrote a post about all the harmful foods for cats as well as a post about all the harmful plants for cats. Before your home becomes entirely boring, here is a list of plants that are cat-safe.
Signs of Kidney Failure In Cats
- Frequent Urination
- Urination Outside Litter Box
- Drinking a lot of water all day
- Bacterial infections in bladder or kidney
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Vomiting, diarrhea, bloody or cloudy urine
- Ammonia-like bad breath
- Brownish coloured tongue
- Mouth ulcers on gums and tongue
- Dry coat
- Weakness and indifference
While you might think that frequent urination is a sign of a well-working kidney, in cats it can easily be a sign of little activity of the kidney filtering the urine. It is usually paired with a drinking a lot of water, which is also a clear sign that something is a little off.
Urine with little filtering means there is plenty of room for bacteria, which leads to infections in bladder and kidneys. Note that some of these signs can also occur in other diseases, or have other causes, especially when you look at vomiting and diarrhea and weight loss, so make sure that you can cross of multiple signs. In any case of these symptoms it can be good to check up with your veterinary, as extreme vomiting and diarrhea still can lead to dehydration.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Acute kidney disease can in most cases be treated and helped a big step into recovery, but not all cases are the same. It is definitely better to prevent your cat from harm than to treat and cure it afterwards, especially because these things are so fatal to cat’s health.
A chronic kidney failure is often progressed so much further, because cats are so well at hiding the symptoms and early signs of kidney failure. By the time you figured out about it, it is often too late. In some cases you can still help and lengthen the life of a cat with chronic kidney failure, as long as it gives a high quality of life.
The diagnosis of kidney failure of any type is usually through blood tests and urine tests. In some cases X-ray, echo/ultrasound or a biopsy is needed to make a proper diagnosis.
Treatment of kidney failure depends on the overall health of the cat. An older cat or a very weak cat might not survive surgery. Quality of life is assessed before treatment is applied.
In case of a blockage, surgery might be needed, therefore the cat needs to be stable enough for it to be performed. In most cases some IV fluid does wonders, this means however that the cat needs to stay overnight at the veterinary clinic, as giving cats IV fluids is a difficult and precise job. Cats need to stay put for it to work, so they are often under anesthetics over a longer amount of time.
With reduced or complete kidney failure, it is best to give your cat special renal food low in salt, phosphorus and protein and high in Vitamin D and Omega-3. Transitioning to a new food should be done gradually. It is best to ask your veterinary for advice on how to do this and which foods to give to your cat.
It was almost half a year into the progress of the disease, before we took our dear old Nusse to the veterinary for a checkup and found out about her chronic or acute kidney failure. Unfortunately there wasn’t much we could do for her, other than feeding her renal food and taking optimally care for her.
We never found out what had caused it and were left heart broken when she died the day after Christmas (2016). Nusse became 12 years of age. It was a devastating experience to see her break down more and more.
It is therefore essential that we spread the word about how to see the early signs of kidney failure in cats, so that others can perhaps be more lucky and save their cat from disaster.
If you have seen a younger Nusse on this site, then it is because we got her back later on as a kitten.
Even with yearly checkups, can you go amiss on acute kidney failure signs. Therefore, it is important to keep a close eye on your cat’s health and possible signs of illness. Know your cat well to be able to tell whether something is “off”. Make sure you make your house, surroundings of your house and garage kitty-safe so no harmful toxins end up in your cat’s tummy which can cause various health issues.
Acute kidney disease is possibly treatable, as long as you find rapidly out about it.
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