In veterinary medicine there are some enemies that we fight more often than others. In our feline patients we see many affected by things like inflammatory bowel disease, lower urinary tract inflammation, and diabetes mellitus. Perhaps no diagnosis is a common in our furry patients, however, as kidney disease in cats.
Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital thinks all friends of felines should know a little about kidney disease and how to effectively do battle. Kidney disease in cats may be a formidable foe, but it is one that we can put up a good fight against.
Kidney Disease in Cats
Kidney disease in cats is classified as either acute (sudden) or chronic (happening over time). Acute kidney disease can happen due to things like infection, exposure to a toxin, or obstruction of the lower urinary tract that prevents the kidneys from emptying. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is more common and results from the slow loss of kidney function over time and often affects cats as they age.
When CKD occurs, the kidneys become unable to keep up at filtering waste products out of the blood stream. These build up, causing the cat to feel poorly. The kidneys also become unable to maintain appropriate hydration. These effects can result in:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Weight loss
- Dilute urine
- Decreased appetite
- A dull hair coat/decreased grooming
Many cats affected by kidney disease also have high blood pressure. Some many become anemic or have electrolyte disturbances as well.
Kidney disease in cats is usually diagnosed via blood and urine testing. Other diagnostic modalities like ultrasound, urine culture, and radiographs may also be helpful in ruling out underlying factors that may be causing or complicating the disease.
Waging the War
Successful management of kidney disease in cats involves us working together as a team, so it is important that you know your role.
Staging kidney disease is an important first step in identifying how advanced the condition is. Blood work, urine sampling, and blood pressure readings are important in accomplishing this.
Once we know what we are dealing with, we can formulate a plan to help the kidneys work more efficiently. Our plan may include:
Renal protection measures — We want to do everything we can to help the remaining functional kidney work as easily as possible. We may want to re-evaluate the value of any medications that may be causing the kidneys extra stress. For most cats diet is also crucial. We will often recommend a prescription diet that is phosphorus and protein restricted.
Hydration plan — Because the kidneys play such an important role in regulating fluid levels, keeping our patient hydrated is critical. In patients who are already dehydrated we may recommend fluid therapy under the skin or intravenously in the hospital to give them a jump start. Cats with kidney disease should always have fresh water available. You can also encourage water intake by feeding canned food and providing running water sources.
Keeping an eye on blood pressure — Many cats with kidney disease have high blood pressure. If hypertension exists, medications are necessary to manage it as it can worsen kidney disease as well as lead to other organ impairment.
Watching urine protein — When the kidneys are damaged, they can leak protein molecules into the urine, a condition called proteinuria. This can actually cause progression of kidney disease and requires medical management.
Attention to detail — Monitoring your pet closely one a diagnosis has been made is perhaps the most important thing that you can do as a pet owner. Cats are notorious for concealing signs of illness, so a watchful eye and periodic examinations and monitoring as recommended are essential.
When we work together, we can often successfully manage kidney disease in cats and help our patients live their best lives. We are happy to be your partner any time a pet is ill, and renal disease is no exception. If you have a pet affected by kidney disease, or if you have questions about it please give us a call.