What is feline kidney failure?
Chronic kidney failure in cats is a condition where the cat's kidneys are no longer able to remove wastes from the blood. A kidney that is functioning normally will remove chemicals and toxins from the bloodstream and transfer them to the urine of the cat.
What causes it?
There are a number of potential things that could cause your cat's kidneys to fail. Sometimes they fail as a result of bacterial infections - there are some that affect kidneys specifically, and some that spread from the urinary tract to the kidneys. It can happen because of tumors or genetic conditions that affect the kidney. Finally, in many cases it is something gradual that affects the cat as a result of old age. All organs begin to show signs of wear and tear as the cat ages, and kidneys in some cases will stop working as a result.
What are the symptoms?
The biggest one is an increase in thirst and you will notice your cat drinking quite a bit more. As a corollary, the cat will also begin to urinate more. This is because if the kidney is functioning normally, it sends out waste through the urine - when it can't do that as effectively, it will try to compensate by producing much more urine. If you are seeing these signs only, you may have caught it at an early stage, and you should take the cat into the vet to try to prevent it from progressing.
Later on, more serious signs of kidney failure will appear. The cat will seem to be sick in general. It may stop eating and begin vomiting more frequently. It will seem lethargic and depressed. You may also notice that your cat has very bad breath.
Is there a treatment?
While the kidneys of your cat will have suffered permanent damage, that does not mean that it is not possible to get them functioning again. Your vet will initially want to give the cat a lot of fluids, possibly using an IV drip. This is to get the junk cleared out of them and to replace lost minerals such as potassium, which is very important to healthy, functioning kidneys. Kidneys cannot heal themselves, but small portions of the kidney tissue can keep a cat going even if most of them are damaged.
After this is done, you will have to change the lifestyle of your cat. If the kidneys start working again, then you will need to switch the cat to a special diet as recommended by the vet, and you will also probably need to give the cat potassium supplements. You may also need to have an IV drip at home to keep fluids in your cat. Finally, there are a variety of drugs vets sometimes prescribe to deal with secondary problems that can worsen the effects of kidney failure and make it more likely to recur.
With some cats, the kidneys will not work properly after failure. It is possible to get a kidney transplant for your cat, but it will be expensive, and you may find yourself required to adopt the donor cat as they usually use shelter animals.
Cats can still live for some time after kidney failures if you adhere to the lifestyle changes required. They can live for several more years with a good quality of life, and given that it is mostly elderly cats who have these problems that can be up to a normal life span.
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