Domestic cats today can live to be over 15 years old through care, feeding, and medical care. With increasing age, however, the diseases of old age also increase. The risk of chronic kidney disease in cats, known for short as CKD, increases with age.
How do I know if my cat has kidney problems?
- Damage to the kidney corpuscles is the beginning of chronic kidney disease;
- The CKD is incurable and is always advancing;
- Symptoms can vary widely, so it is not easy to tell when the cat has kidney problems.
When the kidneys fail
It is estimated that around 30 percent of cats over the age of 15 will have CKD. As the disease progresses, the loss of function of the kidneys increases, so it is important to start treatment early. In this way, the disease can be slowed down in order to keep the cat happy for as long as possible. If your four-legged friend suffers from symptoms of kidney disease, it is high time to do something.
In the case of renal insufficiency, the symptoms usually only become visible after the disease has progressed. If the kidneys are damaged, the cat usually shows unspecific signs such as fever, fatigue, weight loss, and avoidance of exercise. In addition, the fur nose is extremely thirsty and has to go to the litter box more often. The signs should be taken seriously as they show the cat has a problem.
What is the function of the cat’s kidneys?
In cats, the kidneys are located to the side of the spine in the lumbar area. They are surrounded by a fat capsule and are a highly effective organ. 200,000 nephrons per kidney filter toxins and secondary substances from protein breakdown and substances that have to be derived from the urine. Nephrons are functional units within the kidney. They consist of kidney corpuscles and kidney tubules. A preliminary stage of urine is filtered out of the blood by the corpuscles, water is absorbed and valuable components for the body are returned to the organism. This includes glucose and minerals. Toxins that have been sorted out are directed to the urine and then excreted in the urine.
Kidneys are like small sewage works that perform a wide variety of tasks in the body.
They not only regulate the water and electrolyte balance, but also ensure stable blood pressure and play an important role in the formation of new blood. In addition, they also form hormones and the acid-base balance is regulated by them. They are therefore central components for the metabolism. If these organs get into trouble, the cat is in acute danger. The nephrons are irreparably damaged in renal insufficiency. The consequence of this is that these filters no longer work properly and let more and more through. Urinary poisoning occurs called uremia. For a certain period of time, the body can buffer the damage to the kidney corpuscles through the formation of tissue. If the organs are already severely damaged, the symptoms that are only really visible appear.
When the time comes, three-quarters of the original functionality will be lost.
How do cats show kidney failure?
Infection, genetic makeup, or high blood pressure can all lead to kidney problems in cats. The ingestion of toxic substances can also be responsible for severe kidney damage. This can be due to some houseplants or heavy metals, such as lead or mercury. In most cases, however, age is simply to blame. Renal insufficiency affects more elderly cats. A distinction is then made between chronic renal insufficiency (CRF) and acute renal insufficiency (ANI). The CRF develops over a longer period of time, the ANI is less common and arises from an external cause or poisoning.
In renal insufficiency, the kidney tubules and the tissue between them become inflamed. The kidneys no longer work properly, which leads to creeping poisoning of the body. First of all, there are quite unspecific symptoms that first indicate poisoning by an external influence. The cat is in pain due to the diseased kidneys, which limits its mobility. Often the cats with kidney disease climb, run, and jump less, in some extreme cases the way to the litter box can be real torture. At this point, at the latest, urine that has changed in color can be seen in the advanced stage. The smell is also different, there may be blood or pus in the urine. When palpating the kidneys, the cat utters distinct painful sounds.
How is poisoning noticeable?
- Extreme thirst
- frequent need to urinate
- Loss of appetite, unwillingness to eat
- Shaggy fur
- Bad breath
How can kidney problems in cats be treated?
Cats older than seven years of age should see a veterinarian for a kidney check every six months. A blood count should also be taken so that possible problems can be identified at an early stage. The creatinine values provide information about the presence of kidney disease. This value of the urinary metabolic product makes it possible for the veterinarian to divide the disease into different stages and to order an appropriate therapy.
Once the kidney cells are damaged, they can no longer regenerate.
If the diagnosis is made early, the cat owner can counteract progressive organ damage. The change in feed is extremely important. There are special foods for cats with kidney problems. The feed has high-quality, balanced proteins, but salt and phosphorus are reduced. The food is not immediately accepted by all cats as it has less flavor than other types of food. Since the organism loses a lot of water due to the disease, the cat must always have enough water freely available. This can counteract dehydration. Many cats like running water, which can be given to them playfully with a drinking fountain. If necessary, the cat will be given medication to aid drainage, possible nutrient deficiencies, and blood pressure.
What is the prognosis for cats with renal insufficiency?
Many old cats have kidney failure, but in a few cases, young cats can also suffer from it. A breed-typical predisposition to kidney problems occurs in Burma cats, Russian blue, Maine Coon, Abyssinian, and Siamese. If the disease is recognized at an early stage, it can be treated well. But it is still not curable. If possible, it should be detected by a blood test before clinical symptoms appear. Cats with chronic kidney failure must follow a strict diet and the veterinarian should monitor the cat regularly, as should the owner. Then even a cat suffering from kidney damage can grow old relatively symptom-free. Kidney disease, however, is one of the leading causes of death in old cats.