Understanding kidney disease in cats and how to care for them
Kidney disease is something we’re familiar with as humans and, although we might take the necessary steps to protect our own health, it’s a condition that is often overlooked in pets.
PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing says: “Kidneys help to filter out toxic waste products from metabolism that are in the blood into the urine, but if they aren’t working properly, these waste products build up and cause serious illness. Damage to the kidneys often can’t be reversed, so it’s vital to understand the impact of kidney disease, and know the steps we can take to help our cats live as well as possible.
Spotting the symptoms
“Acute kidney disease develops when the kidneys have stopped working suddenly, often caused by infection, consuming something toxic, or other health problems. Depending on how severe the kidney damage is, sometimes your pet can recover and get back some of their kidney function, with intensive treatment.
“Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a long-term condition and, sadly, the damage to your cat’s kidneys can’t be reversed. The kidneys are affected slowly over time, and problems can develop over a few months or years, without any signs at all for a long time and is often just due to ageing. Symptoms include drinking/urinating more often than usual, weight loss, eating less, vomiting, low energy, bad breath with a “urine” smell, and sudden blindness. Contact your vet if you start noticing any of these changes, as getting treatment early on can make a huge difference to how long your cat can live with this disease.
“Feeding your cat a special kidney diet is one of the most important changes – of all the treatments available, it’s thought to make the biggest impact on how long your pet will live. These diets are formulated with the right levels of protein, sodium, and phosphorus, which support the kidneys and reduce toxin build up. Your vet will advise which diet is best for your cat, and you’ll need to introduce this slowly overtime.
“If your cat becomes dehydrated, your vet may give them fluids either through a drip or under their skin. Keep up to date with any medications, supplements, or vitamins recommended by your vet. If your feline friend stops eating, they are at risk of becoming more poorly – if they have trouble eating their kidney food, speak to your vet for further advice.
“Making sure your cat stays hydrated and has a consistent intake of water is vital to their overall health. Diet is really important to keeping the kidneys healthy so check that your cat’s food is suitable for their age – most foods for senior cats have the right balance of ingredients to keep their kidneys as healthy as possible.
“Regular check-ins with your vet are essential throughout your cat’s life, and Persian, Siamese, Ragdoll, Burmese, Russian Blue, Main Coon, and Abyssinian cat breeds may be at higher risk of developing CKD. Keeping a close eye on your cat’s behaviour is incredibly important as they get older, as the earlier your spot any symptoms, the better their chances.”
PDSA is the UK’s largest vet charity providing a vital service for pets across the UK whose owners struggle to afford treatment costs for their sick and injured pets. For many vulnerable pets, PDSA is there to help when there is nowhere else for their owners to turn. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk
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