Kidney disease, or renal disease, is one of the most common diseases that we see affecting cats. Kidney disease is very serious, as the kidneys are essential for the health of your cat. The role of the kidneys is to filter the blood, excrete excess nitrogen and other toxins, regulate water and electrolyte balance, and produce some hormones. When the filtering components of the kidneys become damaged, they cannot properly carry out their functions properly. This is an irreversible change. The kidneys will be able to function efficiently until approximately 70% of the kidney is lost, at which stage they will start to deteriorate, and we begin to see clinical signs of illness in our cats.
There are two different forms of kidney disease – acute (sudden) or chronic (long-term). Chronic kidney disease is more common, and what we will explore here. Regular monitoring seeks to discover early signs of kidney disease, so we can do our best to slow its progression and give cats a high quality of life for as long as possible.
Chronic kidney disease has many causes. Some have the potential for prevention or effective treatment if detected early enough.
Some of the following clinical signs, or symptoms, of chronic kidney disease are seen late in the disease. Early detection of any of the following signs can help to treat kidney disease and preserve the remaining functioning parts of the kidney.
Many of the clinical signs indicative of chronic kidney disease are vague, and can be indicators of other disease processes occurring. In order to make a diagnosis of kidney disease, it is important that further tests are carried out. These tests can be done before the cat is unwell, when early detection is still possible.
Appropriate treatment for your cat will be based on the results of the clinical exam, blood and urine tests, and an ultrasound if one was performed.
Kidney disease can be detected early if regular veterinary checks are made, especially for senior pets (those aged over 7 years old) and if clinical signs are recognised quickly. The sooner kidney disease is detected, the better the outcome, as monitoring and appropriate treatments can be put in place to protect the remaining portion of the kidney. This will help ensure your cat’s quality of life is maximised, and in many cases can considerably increase their life expectancy.