Kidney Disease in Cats: All You Need To Know

If you’re looking to find out more about Kidney Disease in Cats, you’re in the right place.

Kidney Disease in Cats

Table of Content


What Do The Kidneys Do?

The primary function of the kidneys are:

  • Removing impurities and toxins from the blood
  • Sustaining correct body water balance (hydration)
  • Sustaining correct salt and electrolyte balance
  • Sustaining correct acid balance
  • Sustaining normal blood pressure
  • Hormone production
  • Healthy urine production

If the kidneys were to fail to function correctly, this would lead to:

  • A build-up of impurities and toxins in the bloodstream
  • Malfunction of the body

What is Kidney Disease in Cats?

Kidney disease in cats is a condition that can be very harmful to your cats’ health. It is more common among older cats, as this is when their immune system becomes weaker and they become more susceptible to illness and various other health-related problems.

Unfortunately, the signs of kidney disease in cats can be tricky to notice during the early onset of the disease. For this reason, it is suggested that you keep a close eye on your beloved cat to avoid making matters worse in the long run. Early diagnosis of kidney disease allows for effective combatting and prevention of the potentially harmful effects.

Stick with us as we walk you through all you need to know about kidney disease in cats. By the end of this, you’ll be an expert.

What are the Two Main Types and Causes of Kidney Disease in Cats?

There are two main types of kidney disease in cats. These are acute kidney disease and chronic kidney disease. We will walk you through the different below:

Acute Kidney Disease (AKD): this is the sudden failure of kidneys that compromises their normal functioning (see the top of the page). It can develop in cats of all ages across short time frames (days) or across multiple weeks. AKD can be caused by:

  • Severe injury to the kidneys (acute kidney injury)
  • Ingestion of poisonous chemicals (antifreeze, cleaning fluids, lily plants, pesticides)
  • Low blood pressure from heart failure (reduced blood flow to kidneys)
  • Rapid dehydration (overheating, vomiting and diarrhoea)

Acute Kidney Disease, if swiftly diagnosed, can be treated and cured without any sustaining problems. 

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD): this is when the kidneys become malfunctional, often happening over long periods. CKD is common among middle-aged to older cats. CKD can be caused by:

  • Kidney infections and blockages (effects worsen long-term)
  • Kidney or bladder stones (can block blood into kidney and urine out of kidney)
  • Kidney tumours (e.g. lymphoma)
  • Degenerative kidney disease (ageing)
  • High blood pressure
  • Viral infections
  • Cancer
  • Bacterial infections (spread through the bloodstream)
  • Hereditary (inherited diseases in specific cat breeds)

Chronic Kidney Disease is a long-term, irreversible disease that weakens the normal functioning of the kidneys. While many cats are able to live for a long time with this disease, they must receive special treatment and care from their owners.

Symptoms of Kidney Disease in Cats

There is a range of symptoms that can provide you with information that your cat may be suffering from kidney disease. However, as we have already discussed, diagnosing your cat with kidney disease at the early stages can be difficult. Nonetheless, here are the most common symptoms of kidney disease in cats:

  • A significant increase in urination (easier to notice with indoor cats)
  • Increase in water consumption (don’t over think this one)
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy (lack of energy)
  • Poor self-grooming
  • Noticeable bad breath (more severe cases)
  • Loss of appetite (loss of proteins and vitamins from urine can lead to abnormal metabolism)
  • Pale gums (loss of red blood cells – anaemia)

Physical Examination for Kidney Disease in Cats

Physical examinations are often the starting point for noticing abnormalities in your cat. From these check-ups, your vet will be able to gauge:

  • Irregularity in kidney size and shape
  • Asymmetry (one kidney larger or smaller than the other)
  • Presence of kidney stones
  • Irregular body temperature
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration (skin tenting and dry gums) – see our cat fountain reviews on our cat technology reviews section to find out ways to get your cat to drink more
  • Poor self-grooming (messy fur coat)
  • Bad breath
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Irregular colouring of the gums
  • High blood pressure

Clinical Tests for Kidney Disease in Cats

More advanced check-ups include more scientific, intricate testing. This might include:

  • IDEXX SDMA test (specific biomarkers for kidney function – SDMA increases earlier on before severe damage)
  • Complete blood count (CBC) – reveals anaemia (lack of red blood cells) or an increase in white blood cells (infection, stress and inflammation)
  • Blood profile – examining irregularity of the chemicals found in your cats’ blood
  • Urine analysis – there are a large range of urine tests that can flag-up any irregular or unhealthy problems in your cats’ urine production
  • Diagnostic imaging – using X-rays to identify specific changes in the structure and size of your cats’ kidneys
  • Blood pressure measurement – high blood pressure correlates with chronic kidney disease
  • Infectious disease testing
  • Kidney sampling
  • Thyroid testing – diseases can often overlap with other irregular body functioning

Treatment for Kidney Disease in Cats

Each case of kidney disease in cats is unique. For this reason, no universal treatment matches the exact condition that your cat is dealing with, as they may also have other coexisting diseases or illnesses. Listed below are some treatments your vet might advise for dealing with your cats’ kidney disease:

  • Anaemia monitoring – replaces the necessary hormones needed for red blood cell production
  • Antibiotics – tackles infections that are causing your cat to be unhealthy
  • Appetite stimulating medication – increase your cats’ want to eat and help them rebuild lost muscle mass
  • Blood pressure monitoring – your vet will provide you with oral medication if necessary
  • Dietary Change – reduce food with high protein and phosphorous content and increase water-soluble anti-oxidant vitamin and fibre content (this process will be trail-and-error – as we all know, cats can be extremely fussy!)
  • Increase in water consumption – Cats are more encouraged to drink from moving water. For this reason, you should look to invest in a cat water fountain. Check out our reviews of the best cat water fountain available to you.
  • Intravenous Fluids – this flushes out your cats’ internal system (removes toxins) while providing them with necessary nutrients and electrolytes to rehydrate them

As a last note. If you are ever unsure about the health of your wonderful kitty, it is always better to be safe than sorry and by that we mean taking them down to your local veterinary as soon as you can.

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