Tuesday, March 16, 2010 11:12 AM

Kidney Failure in Cats

Kidney failure is a common problem in cats today, and getting more common. It is generally fatal, and incurable; the one bright spot is that it doesn't usually become lethal until the cat is older. This is because by then, the disease has progressed to the point where the remaining kidney tissue cannot keep up with the job of filtering the blood. So, while the kidneys are failing, you will probably not see any symptoms in your cat until it is almost too late. However, with a little knowledge and prevention, you may be able to prolong your pet's life for months, even years.

As we know, cats do not malinger, so it is sometimes difficult to know when they are not feeling well. It is important to know the symptoms of this disease, therefore, so that you can recognize them and take action. One thing to be cognizant of is that cats have very delicate urinary systems, and are prone to problems like cystitis, feline urological syndrome, kidney stones, and renal (kidney) failure. If your cat has a history of any of these urinary tract issues, the chances of kidney failure developing later on is greater. Richard Pitcairn, in his book, The Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, notes that cats with bladder infections when they are young very often develop renal failure in middle age. Sweet Pea, who died of kidney failure, also had bouts of cystitis when she was younger. A weakness in the system will cause its premature failure, something you must realize early on.

Symptoms of kidney failure come on somewhat suddenly. The cat shows signs of increased thirst, drinks more water than he used to, and urinates more often. Soon, the animal starts to have other problems, such as recurrent bladder infections. Antibiotics will not work anymore, and the condition becomes chronic. The buildup of toxins in the animal's blood will cause general unthriftiness, such as rough coat, excessive shedding, lack of energy and lack of appetite. If, at this point, you have a kidney function test done at the veterinary hospital, it will come back positive for kidney failure. Even if the test denotes a "mild" case, know that the situation will degrade quickly if nothing is done.

Why is this such a problem, in this modern age? There's the reason: Commercial cat food diets, particularly dry food. Cats normally do not drink much water, desert creatures that they are. Dry cat food forces them to do so, and creates an imbalance in the cat's system. I read once that when a cat eats only dry food for a couple of days, such as when owners go away for the weekend, it takes several weeks for their internal water balance to get back to normal when normal feeding resumes. Essentially, dry food dehydrates your cat!

Tomorrow, we'll look at some treatments that can help preserve the remaining kidney function for a bit longer, making your cat more comfortable. We'll also look at the most important piece of the puzzle: Prevention!
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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