Kidney Disease In Cats - When To Euthanise | Cloud 9 Vets

Kidney Disease In Cats – When To Euthanise

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Chronic kidney disease – or CKD – is the persistent loss of kidney function over a period of time. And is the most common kidney disease to affect your cat. Healthy kidneys perform a range of important functions, including filtering the blood and making urine – impurities are carried to the bladder and eliminated through the urethra.

Problems with kidney function can cause a variety of health issues for your cat with them feeling unwell. And as they lose important vitamins and proteins the results can be severe. Learn more about kidney disease in cats – when to euthanise here…

Understanding Renal Disease

Renal failure in cats progresses in different stages – beginning with mild early disease – and developing to end-stage. Kidney failure in cats – final stages are technically defined as a less than 10% of normal renal function.

Cats of any age can be diagnosed with kidney disease, but its usually seen in older cats. Signs of kidney failure in cats can take place slowly – by the time the condition is diagnosed it may be too late to treat the disorder effectively.

Kidney failure can be categorised as acute or chronic. Acute kidney failure often results from a problem that is quickly identifiable such as ingesting antifreeze, or a kidney infection. Other causes include urinary blockage, prescription medications, diabetes, and genetic factors.

Chronic kidney failure is the loss of the functional units of the kidney – known as nephrons. Once damaged they can’t be replaced, as happens during every day wear and tear – or due to a bout of acute kidney failure.

cat licking paws

Signs of Renal Failure

Symptoms of kidney failure in cats vary and not all cats will experience the indicators listed here:

  • Acute blindness
  • Anorexia
  • Blood in urine
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Weight loss

Diagnosis of Feline Kidney Disease

Your vet will need to carry out a clinical examination to determine whether further testing will be required. A blood test will measure the amounts of blood urea nitrogen and creatinine – a high level will point to abnormal kidney filtering. A high level of phosphorus is also an indicative mark as it accumulates in the blood.
Urinalysis will show whether the urine is more dilated than normal – or if it contains sugars and proteins that are signs of renal failure. Conditions such as dental disease, low potassium, and high blood pressure will also be investigated.

Further examination may also show evidence of nodules or cyst on the kidney that may indicate cancer. Or kidneys may be undersized or abnormal in shape. Lymph nodes may also be enlarged.

Feline Kidney Disease – Possible Complications

Kidney failure in cats can lead to:

  • Retained hormones increasing blood pressure and resulting in hypertension
  • Anaemia as red blood cells are undernourished
  • Muscle wastage and poor body condition due to lost protein
  • Dehydration as urine concentration fails
  • Nausea and vomiting caused by a rise in toxin levels

Treatment for Kidney Disease

To correct dehydration the vet may administer intravenous fluids where a drip puts fluids directly into the circulation via a vein. This treatment may last from a few days to several weeks. Or oral fluids may be syringed into the cat’s mouth – but this can be time-consuming and difficult if you have to continue this method at home.

Prescription renal foods are encouraged to give your cat essential energy. They may be supported with weekly Vitamin B injections, or appetite stimulation tablets.
Antacid medications can make your cat more comfortable, as can anti-sickness drugs. Potassium supplements and appropriate antibiotics may also be prescribed.

old black cat

Diet Recommendations

Success in treating cats with chronic kidney disease has also been related to diet. Homemade diets with 40% protein calories and 60% fat mixed with supplements such as fish oil have proven to aid recovery.

Feeding a poor-quality dehydrated protein diet may negatively affect the kidneys long term. Fat is an excellent source of energy – and cats are designed to eat and deal with fat far more efficiently than carbohydrates.

Supplementing your cats’ diet with omega-3 fatty acids keeps kidney inflammation in check. Research has shown that cats that eat high amounts of fish oil have a longer life expectancy – as it slows the progression of kidney disease.

All renal diets are fortified with potassium which can be detrimental – so a homemade diet ensures the levels of potassium can be appropriately adjusted. Cats can become very stressed if forced to take supplements, so if these are included in the diet this takes away the need to add unnecessary trauma.

Life Expectancy

Kidney disease in cats – life expectancy is shown below. Exact figures are unable to be given as factors can be unpredictable, and different stages have a bearing on these statistics:

With acute kidney failure, your cat will normally stabilise and require long term maintenance at home following hospitalisation. And acute renal failure can often be reversed allowing your cat to lead a relatively long life.

For chronic renal failure there is no cure – but with appropriate treatment, your cat may live for months or even years – the median figure comes in at between less than two years up to almost six years.

End-Stage Renal Disease

Symptoms of kidney disease in cats will progress until your cat is very thin with no muscle mass. End-stage symptoms also include:

  • Elasticity in the skin produced by dehydration
  • Excessive thirst with a high production of urine followed by not drinking or urinating at all
  • Nausea resulting from an inflamed stomach lining
  • Bad breath due to high toxin levels in the blood
  • Weakness and lethargy without energy even to groom


Cat staring in distance

Gentle at Home Euthanasia

Sadly, cat euthanasia at home may be your final option. You’ll be able to discuss home visit services with an understanding vet – and get all the help and support you need at this difficult time.

The procedure will be clearly and simply explained. A mild sedative will be administered that sends your pet into a peaceful sleep. Then an anaesthetic agent will cause the heart to slow and calmly stop. And your cat will peacefully pass away surrounded by loved ones.

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by Cloud 9 Vets on September 24, 2019

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