What do the kidneys do?
Kidneys are a vital organ for humans and animals alike. They get rid of waste products, maintain correct blood pressure, and produce hormones that are involved in water regulation and red blood cell production.
What is kidney disease & what causes it?
Acute Kidney Disease
This is a sudden damage to one or both kidneys. It can be due to trauma (traffic accidents), poisoning (anti-freeze, paracetamol and lilies are common causes), infections or blockages of the lower urinary tract. Even when treated appropriately this can progress into chronic kidney disease.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is defined as ‘the presence of persistent functional or structural abnormalities affecting one or both kidneys’. The term chronic is used when this has been going on for 3+ months. CKD can have many different underlying or initiating causes, including- infection, cancers, toxins and kidneys stones.
Unlike some other organs, the kidneys have very limited capacity for regeneration or repair if damaged.
What cats are affected & what age?
More than 1 in 3 cats will be affected by kidney disease at some point in their life; around 40% of cats over the age of 12 are thought to be affected. It is the second most common cause of mortality in cats.
What are the signs I will see?
Unfortunately, the obvious signs of kidney disease do not show until around 70% of the kidney function is lost. As the kidneys are working less efficiently, they are less able to concentrate urine, and thus the cat will be seen to urinate more. He will then drink more to make up for this excessive water loss.
As less waste products are eliminated, these build up in the blood system, making the cat feel sick and lethargic. He may not want to eat or groom; hence weight loss and poor coat are very common signs. You may also notice he has bad breath or ulcers in his mouth. High blood pressure and anaemia also occur, but these are not so noticeable to owners.
What tests will my vet do?
Is it a good idea to take your older cat to the vet for regular checkups so that any subtle signs of early kidney disease are more likely to be detected. Your vet may also suggest blood and urine tests which can detect kidney disease before any clinical signs are obvious.
What treatments are available?
The mainstay of treatment of chronic kidney disease is dietary manipulation. Your veterinary surgeon will likely prescribe a special diet such as one of the Royal Canin Renal diets. These come in both wet and dry forms to help stimulate appetite and should be fed for the rest of the cat’s life. It
has been found that cats being fed such diets live twice as long following diagnosis than those on regular adult maintenance diets. Be sure your cat has easy access to plenty of drinking water- multiple water bowls and water fountains may really help increase fluid intake.
How can I tempt my cat to eat more?
Persevere with feeding the new diet, even if the cat rejects it initially- the changeover process can take 2-6 weeks to complete. Feed multiple small meals each day rather than 1-2 larger ones. Avoid giving treats as this will blunt the appetite and make rejection of the special diet more likely. Try mix feeding- wet and dry food; you can warm the wet food to help release the aromas or soak the dry food to soften it, particularly if his mouth is sore. Wet food also helps to increase the fluid intake. Also offering some aromatic variety within the renal range may also tempt a fussy cat to eat.
Can CKD be cured?
No, there is no cure for CKD. However, effective management can slow the progression of the disease, prolong the lives of affected cats and improve their quality of life.
What is the prognosis?
Response to treatment varies for different cats. In general, the earlier the diagnosis is made and treatment started, the better the outcome in terms of quality of life and survival times. The condition will continue deteriorate over time, but correct management and regular monitoring can slow progression.
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