We all have our strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to our bodies, things are no different. Each of us have organs and body systems that work better than others, be it a diseased immune system, a congenital heart issue, or a sensitive gastrointestinal tract.
Cats as a group tend to have a temperamental urinary system. This organ system results in more than its fair share of vet visits for our feline friends, be it for a urinary tract infection, a cystitis flare, or for feline kidney disease. No matter what the issue, Carriage Hills Animal Hospital is equipped to help your cat make the best of a flawed urinary tract.
When to Worry
The kidney’s primary functions include maintaining appropriate hydration and filtering waste products from the body. When they are are not working properly, things can go south quickly. These important body processes are essential for a healthy pet.
When the kidneys are impaired, there are several symptoms that become apparent. Cats affected by feline kidney disease often experience:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Weight loss
- Diluted urine
- Decreased appetite
- A dull hair coat
- +/- gastrointestinal upset
These symptoms can manifest as a result of several different disease processes, though. As a rule, if your cat is experiencing any of them it is best to call us so that we can get started making a diagnosis so that we can get your cat feeling better.
The Details of Feline Kidney Disease
Feline kidney disease may be acute, such as the sudden loss of kidney function due to exposure to a toxin. Most times, though, feline kidney disease is chronic. Chronic kidney disease, also called CKD, is the slow and steady loss of kidney function over time. Many cats are affected by CKD as they age.
As the kidneys begin to fail in CKD, the cat builds up waste products in the blood stream. This makes the patient feel sick, resulting in the inappetence, weight loss, and decreased grooming we often see. Pet owners also often notice increased thirst and urination as the patient tries to compensate for the kidney’s lack of ability to maintain good hydration.
Cats affected by kidney disease often suffer from high blood pressure as well, as the kidney plays a vital role in regulating this. Surprisingly the kidney also helps to produce red blood cells, and many cats in the later stages of renal disease are anemic.
Feline kidney disease is typically diagnosed through urine and blood testing. Sometimes further evaluation such as ultrasound, urine culture, and radiographs are helpful in ruling out underlying causes for the disease.
How We Can Help
In the case of chronic kidney disease in cats, there is no cure. This doesn’t mean we are helpless when it comes to feline kidney disease, though.
When treating CKD, we must first identify how advanced the disease is. Staging kidney disease involves evaluating blood creatinine levels (a waste product normally filtered by the kidney), protein levels in the urine, and blood pressure.
Once this information is known, we can get to work. We will do our best to help your cat’s kidneys work better by:
Protecting the kidney — The last thing we want to do is make an already ailing kidney work harder. Evaluating any medications a pet is taking may lead us to remove any that are potentially taxing on the kidneys. For most cats diet is also crucial. We will recommend a food restricted in phosphorus. For most of our patients this is a prescription diet.
Maintaining or restoring hydration — For cats who are already dehydrated, fluid therapy under the skin or intravenously is often needed in order to get them feeling better. It is also important to encourage cats affected by kidney disease to stay well hydrated by having fresh water available at all times and encouraging water intake through things like canned food and water fountains.
Managing hypertension — If high blood pressure is present, medications are necessary to manage it. A sodium restricted diet is also helpful as well. Managing hypertension is necessary to prevent further progression of renal disease as well as other major organ damage.
Treating proteinuria — Damaged kidneys may leak protein molecules into the urine, which can hasten the progression of disease. If persistent proteinuria is found, we may utilize medications after looking for potential causes to manage this.
Careful monitoring — Perhaps most importantly, once a cat patient has been found to have renal disease, monitoring closely is key. Cats are well known to hide signs of trouble until things are really dire, so periodic examinations and blood and urine evaluation are necessary. We also need to keep an eye out for things like anemia and low blood potassium levels which can happen in some cats and cause a set of issues all their own.
Some cats do very well with treatment for chronic kidney disease. In general, the earlier we identify the problem, the better our patients do.
Feline kidney disease is a very common issue for our cat patients, and being proactive is key. Many times we can identify the problem long before symptoms appear through routine wellness visits and screening tests. With your help we stand a chance against kidney disease in cats, give us a call for more information.