Kidney disease in cats
The most common causes of premature disease and sometimes death in cats are cancer and kidney failure. With regard to kidney disease, our discreet felines often exhibit only very subtle if any signs of early kidney problems, making early diagnosis sometimes difficult. While kidney disease can occur in a cat at any age, it’s most common in middle-aged and older cats. Causes of acute kidney failure most commonly include acute infections, toxic exposure and certain drugs such as the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, Tylenol (which can kill a cat), and even on occasion prescription Metacam.
These cats typically present acutely ill with recent history of drug exposure. The more common diagnosis of chronic kidney disease certainly presents a more difficult diagnostic challenge. While infections, reactions to drugs, chemicals and/or vaccinations can be involved, in the vast majority of cases, conventional veterinarians rarely find out the cause of chronic kidney failure, often leaving us with palliative management at attempting to preserve kidney function and slow down kidney decline. However, once elevations in blood creatinine and BUN (blood urea nitrogen) occur in cats with chronic renal failure, greater than 80% of kidney function has been irreversibly destroyed when the disease is often first detected, which makes long term management much more difficult.
The diagnosis of chronic kidney failure in cats is based on a combination of blood work, urine analysis, and potentially urine culture and ultrasound done at the veterinary office. Once diagnosed, attempts are made to slow down kidney decline and metabolic complications. Secondary urinary infections are treated with antibiotics. High blood pressure is treated with drugs like Amlodipine. Low protein and low phosphorus diets are fed to ease workload on the kidneys, preferably homemade, but there are commercially available diets as well. Some veterinarians will prescribe appetite stimulants and anti-nausea drugs such as Cyproheptadine, Pepcid AC, Metoclopromide, and Mirtazapine. Because elevations of blood phosphorus occur, many veterinarians will prescribe phosphate binders such as Epakitin to be given at mealtimes. There has been some excellent clinical responses of cats with kidney disease to the probiotic Azodyl, as well which seems to draw the toxins of kidney failure right out of the blood into the digestive tract.
Many cats with chronic kidney disease benefit from receiving subcutaneous fluids under the skin at home several times weekly, which can be easily taught to the pet owner by the veterinarian or veterinary technician. Rarely, some animal guardians will see if their pet is a candidate for kidney transplant. Limitations here include limited facilities across the country that provide this service, VERY high cost, as well as risk of donor kidney organ rejection in the sick patient. Holistic veterinarians will often prescribe nutritional supplements, herbs and/or homeopathic remedies in helping the feline cope with this very difficult disease. The best thing guardians can do is be aware of the early signs of kidney disease in cats. These include:
- Increased thirst/urination
- Subtle weight loss
- Nausea, vomiting
- Drooling from oral ulcers
- Loss of appetite
With routine annual to semiannual exams, blood work/urine analyses and blood pressure measurements, kidney disease in cats can be detected early. And with early detection the disease can often be better managed for an improved and enhanced quality of life for your cat.