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Symptoms of Chronic Renal Failure in Cats

Source: PetWave, Updated on December 22, 2015
Chronic Renal Failure

Effects of Chronic Renal Failure – From the Cat’s Point of View

Chronic renal failure (CRF) is caused by some long-term insult to the kidneys. Most cats with chronic renal failure don’t show any signs of being sick during the early phase of their disease; this is considered to be renal “insufficiency,” rather than renal “failure”. The word “renal” refers to anything having to do with the kidneys. However, as chronic renal failure progresses, affected cats become very ill. Circulating toxins are building up in their bloodstream, which adversely affects the function of all of their key organs. Affected animals just feel lousy. They become weak, lethargic and sluggish. They lose their appetite and lose weight, often being referred to as “skin and bones.” They develop painful sores (ulcerations) on their gums and tongue, and they also become nauseous and have increasingly severe abdominal pain.

Symptoms of Chronic Renal Failure in Cats – What the Owner Sees

Unfortunately, most cats with chronic renal failure don’t start to show signs of being sick until their kidneys have lost approximately 70% of their functional ability. When the symptoms of CRF do become apparent to an affected cat’s owner, they typically include one or more of the following:

  • Marked increase in thirst and water intake (polydipsia; the kidneys are no longer able to conserve water efficiently)
  • Marked increase in urine output (polyuria; dilute urine; increases the chance of developing bladder and kidney infections)
  • Urination in inappropriate places (outside the litter box; around the house)
  • Urination at inappropriate times (sometimes during sleep)
  • Decreased or even complete absence of urination (anuria; usually occurs in end-stage disease)
  • Hunched body stance (due to abdominal pain)
  • Stiff gait (due to abdominal pain)
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • Loss of appetite (inappetance; anorexia; likely due to nausea and abdominal pain)
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Sluggishness
  • Weakness
  • Bad breath (halitosis; uremic breath odor – smells like ammonia)
  • Oral ulceration (painful sores on the gums and tongue)
  • Drooling/excess salivation (ptyalism)
  • Brownish discoloration of the surface of the tongue
  • Poor hair coat (dry; flaky; thinning)
  • Decreased self-grooming activities
  • Poor body condition
  • Pale gums and other mucous membranes
  • Bleeding/clotting problems
  • Altered cognition (changes in mental state)
  • Elevated blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Blindness (typically sudden in onset)
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Cats at Increased Risk of Chronic Renal Failure

Chronic renal failure is more common in companion cats than in domestic dogs. Certain breeds seem to be predisposed to developing this disease. These include the Maine Coon, Abyssinian, Persian, Siamese, Russian Blue and Burmese. Almost all elderly cats have some degree of renal insufficiency or failure, depending on how long they live. Hyperthyroidism and chronic renal failure are often seen in the same aging cat, as both are considered to be geriatric feline diseases. Cats with earlier episodes of acute renal failure are also at an increased risk of developing chronic renal failure.

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