Chronic Renal (Kidney) Failure in Cats

Overview of Chronic Kidney Failure in Cats

Chronic renal (kidney) failure (CRF) is a common problem in all cat breeds. The digestion of food produces waste products, which are carried by blood to the kidneys to be filtered and excreted in the form of urine. When the kidneys fail, they are no longer able to remove these waste products, and toxins build up in the blood producing clinical signs of kidney disease.

Below is an overview of Chronic Renal (Kidney) Failure in Cats followed by in-depth detailed information about the causes, diagnosis and treatment of this disease.

CRF affects all breeds of any age, although older pets are commonly affected, as the prevalence increases with age. The average age of diagnosis in cats is nine years. Breeds thought to be more susceptible include Abyssinians and Persians. CRF affects almost every body system causing many changes throughout the body and usually results in the following:

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Chronic Kidney Failure in Cats

Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize CRF and exclude other diseases. These tests may include:

Treatment of Chronic Kidney Failure in Cats

Although there is no cure, early detection can slow the progression of the disease. CRF can be a life threatening condition that requires hospitalization and treatment for stabilization in extremely ill pets. Treatments may include:

Home Care

Chronic renal failure is life-threatening, and if you suspect your pet has this condition, you should see your veterinarian as soon as possible. Follow-up with your veterinarian for examinations, laboratory work and urinalysis. Blood and urine analysis should be repeated within five to seven days after discharge.

Feed your pet the diet recommended by your veterinarian. Provide free access to fresh clean water at all times. Some owners can administer subcutaneous fluid to their pets at home, if necessary. Your veterinarian can provide instructions when indicated.

Administer any prescribed medications as directed by your veterinarian. Drug therapy may include: phosphate binders; potassium supplementation; or drugs for vomiting (such as cimetidine or famotidine); or anabolic steroids for some patients. Epogen may be given for anemia two to three times weekly.

Preventive Care

There are no specific recommendations for prevention of chronic renal failure. However, general suggestions include:

In-depth Information on Chronic Kidney Failure in Cats

Other medical problems can lead to symptoms similar to those encountered in CRF. Laboratory testing (blood work and urinalysis testing) will often diagnose CRF. Further diagnostic testing may be needed to determine the underlying cause.

Diseases that can appear similar to those with CRF include:

Causes of Kidney Failure in Cats

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Diagnosis In-depth

Diagnostic tests must be performed to confirm the diagnosis of CRF and exclude other diseases that may cause similar symptoms. Tests may include:

Treatment In-depth

Treatment of chronic kidney failure must be individualized based on the severity of the condition, the cause, secondary diseases or conditions and other factors that must be analyzed by your veterinarian. A search for reversible causes of kidney failure should be completed. The ultimate goal of the management of CRF is to provide supportive care while trying to treat/eliminate secondary factors aggravating kidney failure such as, infections, dehydration, malnutrition, anemia, etc.

Kidney transplantation has been done successfully but is cost prohibitive for most cat owners. The cost according to the University of California Davis College of Veterinary Medicine is approximately $18,000 to $24,000. Average life span post transfusion is 3 to 6 years.

Follow-up Care for Cats with Chronic Kidney Failure

Optimal treatment for your pet requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Specific instruction for home therapy is determined by renal damage. Follow-up can be critical and may include: