Kidney failure in older cats is a common problem. Cats are descended from desert animals and their kidneys are very active to cope with possible water shortage. As we keep cats to greater ages owing to improved diets, living conditions and medical care, the kidneys can be one of the first things to ‘wear out’. Common signs include weight loss and drinking more than normal. The kidney filters out poisons and waste products from the blood stream but also have an important role to play in the control of electrolyte in the bloodstream and keeping the body hydrated correctly. They also control blood pressure and help stimulate new red blood cell formation.
Untreated kidney failure will progress to be fatal. Diagnosis is by blood test as there are other conditions that have the same symptoms (liver disease or diabetes for example) and we have to also check your cat isn’t suffering form any other conditions as well as the kidney problems.
The good news is that, although we can’t stop this disease, with early diagnosis we can slow down its progression considerably and improve the cats quality of life as well. Treatment varies depending on how ill your cat is, how bad the blood tests look and how easy your cay is to give medicines and new diets to. Medicine wise there are pills to help the kidney cope with its workload, there are dietary additives to address the changes in electrolytes and vitamins and there are complete kidney sparing diets. Dietary control is one of the best ways to slow down kidney failure and improve quality of life, but the diets are low in salt and protein so not very palatable! Unlike in people where you change your lifestyle and take medicines as your doctor advises, cats will very much do and eat what they want!