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A cat owner’s guide to…kidney disease


How would you know if your cat had kidney, or renal, disease? The RSPCA reveal the common symptoms, what treatment involves and how you can look after a poorly cat.How would you know if your cat had kidney, or renal, disease? The RSPCA reveal the common symptoms, what treatment involves and how you can look after a poorly cat.


What is kidney or renal disease in cats?

Your cat’s kidneys filter waste products out of the blood and remove it from the body in urine. Disease of the kidneys is a very common problem in middle-aged and older cats that affects this important function. What’s more, damage to the kidneys is irreversible. This is a lot to take in for someone with an ill pet. But there are often things you and your vet can do to help prolong your cat’s life and, importantly, maintain quality of life.


Are there different types?


There are 2:

1) Chronic kidney disease

This is the most common type. It is often seen in cats 7 and over and is a natural part of the ageing process. It can also occur because of infections, cancerous growths, urinary stones, viral diseases and inherited defects.


2) Acute kidney disease

This is sudden damage to the kidneys. The cause might be poison or an infection. Without urgent treatment a cat can die. However, even if treatment is successful, a cat might subsequently suffer from chronic kidney disease.


What symptoms should I look out for?

Common ones include drinking more water and peeing more often. Others are eating less, weight loss, a scruffier coat, vomiting, tiredness and bad breath. Unfortunately, most cats won’t show signs of the disease until around 75% of the kidneys are damaged. But some vets do offer urine and blood tests for older cats, to help catch the disease earlier. If you are concerned, ask your practice for more information.


How is it treated?

Kidney damage can’t be reversed. Treatment will deal with symptoms and complications associated with the disease. These will depend on how developed the disease is. They may include:


  • Fluid therapy (intravenously) for a dehydrated cat
  • Long-term oral medication to control protein loss in the urine and blood pressure, both of which can further damage the kidneys. Medications may also be used for other associated problems such as vomiting
  • Injections to stimulate appetite and slow down weight loss


What about diet?

This is often very important. In fact, according to Cats Protection, ‘Dietary management is the single most important factor in the management of renal disease in cats, to improve the quality of life and improve life expectancy.’


Your vet may ask you to give your cat a specific diet that helps to limit further damage and puts a minimum of strain on its kidneys.


What if my cat doesn’t like the food?

There’s a good chance of that, as the special diet is a bit blander (and we all know you can’t fool a cat when it comes to food).


You could try introducing the diet more gradually, possibly by mixing it with his or her usual food. You could also heat it up, to release more aromas and flavours. Finally, if the new food is dry and your cat is used to wet, you might hydrate it with some water. But do talk to your vet before trying any of these techniques.


Ultimately, if your cat rejects the new food, the vet might suggest you reintroduce his original food. A healthy appetite may be more important than a special diet.


Is there anything else I can do?

Ensure water is always available. There should be a water bowl in several rooms, away from feeding places. Also, avoid shallow dishes of water. Cats are just like dogs in this respect and prefer a bowl filled to the brim.


What about the future?

If your cat has kidney disease, your responsibility is to make its life as comfortable as possible. If you have any concerns, talk to your vet. With the right medication and careful dietary management your cat might continue to live a long, happy and healthy life.


If you would like to find out more about different breeds of dogs and cats, including their characteristics, exercise and nutrition essentials, click here.


Disclaimer: The content on this page aims to offer useful information but does not constitute veterinary advice. If your dog or cat falls ill or has an injury, contact your vet immediately.