| Spotlight on Kidney Failure|
Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine and nutrition, our pets are living longer than ever. With this longevity comes increased numbers of geriatric pets living with chronic illness. Common chronic illnesses in geriatric cats include cancer, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and kidney failure, which is our medical topic for this newsletter. It can be scary to find out that your cat has kidney failure, but there are many cats living quite comfortably with this common condition.
Cats with kidney failure can display a wide range of symptoms, depending on how advanced the disease has become by the time of diagnosis. Cats with mild or very early kidney failure may not have any symptoms at all. Cats with a moderate degree of kidney failure will display one or more of these classic symptoms:
- weight loss
- increased water consumption and urination (larger volume)
- loss of appetite (eating less than usual or becoming more"picky" about food)
Cats with more advanced kidney failure will have progressed to severe weight loss. They may not want to eat at all. These cats may still drink large amounts of water, or they may stop drinking all
together. Vomiting and ulcers in the mouth become more common.
Most cats are diagnosed either in early or mid-stage kidney failure. Less commonly, a cat will progress all the way to end-stage kidney failure before the disease is found. Many cats with early stage
disease are diagnosed based on the results of senior screening blood testing, before any symptoms develop. This is ideal, since measures can be undertaken to slow down the progression of the disease early on, and a monitoring schedule can be set up.
Diagnosis of kidney failure requires a blood test, as well as a
urinalysis. If kidney disease is diagnosed, other tests may be
recommended to evaluate for staging or concurrent diseases. These tests include urine culture, urine protein level, x-rays, or abdominal ultrasound. Cats with kidney failure are also prone to hypertension, so blood pressure testing is typically performed twice yearly on affected cats.
It is important to understand that there are no medications that treat the kidney failure directly, nor can we cure or reverse kidney failure. However, we can do things to help slow the progression of the disease and improve a cat's quality of life. There are medications that can help to maintain proper levels of potassium and phosphorus in the blood, as well as medication to help prevent
secondary diseases, and improve a patient's appetite and prevent weight loss. Special foods are available that are easier for damaged kidneys to process. Cats with more moderate or advanced kidney failure often benefit from receiving subcutaneous fluids at home. Cats with severe kidney failure must be treated as inpatients.
Since kidney failure progresses at different rates in every patient, cats with kidney failure must be closely monitored. Typically, these cats will come to the clinic once every 3-4 months. Their weight and blood pressure are checked, and small blood and urine samples are collected for testing. Based on the results of these tests, and how the cat is doing at home, adjustments can be made to the cat's medication or feeding plan.
Some cats live quite comfortably for several years or more with mild kidney disease which never significantly progresses. Other cats develop disease that progresses more quickly, over several
months. All but the most ill cats can be stabilized and managed after the initial diagnosis.
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If your cat has any symptoms of kidney failure (drinking and/or urinating more than usual, becoming more picky with food, losing weight) please call us to set up an appointment for evaluation. If your cat is over 10 years old and has not had senior screening blood testing, now would be a great time to bring him or her in for a screening test. Give us a call to set up an appointment!