Definition of Kidney Disease
Renal disease is a general term for the dysfunction, impairment or failure of the kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for filtering nitrogenous and other waste products out of the body. They also help regulate blood pressure, red blood cell volume and the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus.
How Kidney Disease Affects Cats
The affects on cats from kidney disease result from the body’s attempt to compensate for the kidneys’ diminishing ability to flush toxins out of the body in urine. Among the early signs are dramatically increased water intake and urine output. Other signs are anorexia, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, bad breath, seizures, collapse, abdominal discomfort, oral ulceration, bleeding problems, poor hair coat, weakness, depression and altered states of consciousness. In severe cases, affected cats can develop high blood pressure as well. Unfortunately, in most cases, the effects of chronic kidney disease are not noticed by owners until the damage has become largely irreversible. The signs of acute-onset kidney disorders closely parallel those caused by chronic kidney disease.
Causes of Kidney Disease in Cats
Generally speaking, kidney disorders in cats are classified into those that are chronic and those that are acute. Chronic renal disorders result from long-term insult to the kidneys which, over time, damages their ability to adequately concentrate urine and remove waste products from circulation. Chronic kidney disease can be caused by trauma, congenital abnormalities, urinary tract obstruction or infection, kidney stones, polycystic kidney disease, exposure to toxins, lymphoma, advancing age and a number of other disorders. The signs of acute kidney disorders appear abruptly. If appropriate treatment is provided quickly, it is possible to avoid permanent damage to the kidneys in cases of acute-onset disorders. Acute kidney disorders can be caused by venomous snake or insect bites, shock, bacterial and viral infections and exposure to or ingestion of renal toxins such as antifreeze, among other things.
Preventing Kidney Disease in Cats
One of the most troubling aspects of chronic kidney disease is that affected animals usually do not show clinical signs until the kidneys have been severely damaged. The best prevention is to have your aging cat get annual veterinary examinations to assess kidney function and overall health. Owners also can help manage the risk of kidney disease by feeding their cat a high-quality, nutritionally balanced diet, of course with free access to fresh water at all times. Potential poisons or other toxins should be kept well out of reach of all companion animals to prevent acute kidney damage.
Cats with chronic renal disease usually will be put onto a protein-restricted diet. It is very important that they have free access to fresh water at all times.