Chronic Kidney Disease in Cats

Author: Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness

Chronic Kidney Disease: CKD, is sadly a common condition in middle to older -aged cats with around a third of cats over 12 years old affected by the disease.

In most cases the cause is often unknown.  Dental disease has been identified as a high risk factor for the development of CKD in cats.  Also, kidney disease can be inherited e.g.  polycystic kidneys in Persian cats, or be due to ingesting toxins e.g. after eating Lily plants, or the disease can be noted after repeated bouts of cystitis or urethral blockage, or to secondary to a kidney cancer.

Diagnosing the disease as early as possible is very important as once any kidney damage has occurred, it is sadly irreversible. If diagnosed early enough, and if possible managed well, the rate of progression of the disease can be curbed with Kidney diets and other supportive treatments.

Chronic Kidney disease is the end result of a wide range of primary disorders that cause damage to the kidney nephrons, leading to an overall reduction in the kidney function.

The International Renal Interest Society: IRIS, has produced a helpful classification system to aid in staging the severity of chronic kidney disease. The stages, termed as Stage 1 to 4 reflect symptoms of Kidney changes from asymptomatic cases at Stage 1 to severe end stage renal failure at Stage 4. 

Screening tests involve weight checks, blood tests, urine tests and blood pressure checks and are done to assess which stage of kidney failure that patient has reached.

Early diagnosis is very important here as early intervention can significantly reduce the rate of progression of the disease and in turn hopefully improve patient longevity here.

Symptoms of Kidney disease are:

  • Weight loss
  • Drinking more water
  • Passing a more dilute urine and more frequently
  • A poor appetite
  • Poor coat quality
  • Dehydration
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Mouth ulceration
  •  And a high blood pressure (high blood pressure can in turn cause retinal changes and blindness, central nervous changes and heart problems and it also contributes to the advancement and progression of kidney disease itself).

Management and treatment of Kidney disease in cats involves an advised diet change to a prescription Kidney diet. These prescription diets are carefully balanced and modified specifically for kidney patients. Treatments also involve medications to control high blood pressure, phosphate binders, medications to manage any secondary nausea and vomiting and to support anaemia, potassium and vitamin B supplements and appetite stimulants if required. Also kidney patients can also be prone to bacterial urinary tract infections, so antibiotics may also be required if a concurrent urinary tract infection is diagnosed.

Chronic kidney disease is a challenging condition to manage and your cat will certainly need regular check-ups with your vet.

If you suspect that your cat may have any of the noted symptoms of kidney disease, please contact us for an appointment and an initial check-up.