Chronic kidney disease is one of the most common conditions that can affect older cats.
It’s estimated that up to half of cats over the age of 15 may suffer from it and it’s three times more likely to occur in cats than dogs. Unfortunately, the disease is naturally progressive and is specific to each individual.
Nevertheless, diagnosis does not mean your cat cannot live life to the full with appropriate support and treatment.
The kidneys have a wide range of functions — they maintain the body’s fluid and electrolyte balance, regulate blood pressure, excrete waste products and produce hormones. In chronic kidney disease these functions are disturbed, leading to a range of clinical signs, such as excessive drinking and urinating, loss of appetite, vomiting and weight loss.
Diagnosing kidney disease involves a blood test and urine analysis. Two markers that indicate disease are urea and creatinine levels as these are waste products excreted by the kidneys. Urine analysis shows how well the kidneys concentrate urine and if there is any protein. Collectively, this shows how well the kidneys are functioning.
The key to managing cats with chronic kidney disease is a diet formulated to have a specific balance of components, with lower protein and phosphate levels. This helps to reduce the urea and phosphate levels in the blood, which makes the cat feel brighter and can help to increase its life-span.
There is an array of different formulations. However, it is vital to introduce the diet at the correct time, not when the cat is feeling sick as this risks creating a negative association with the food.
Slowly introduce the diet, often by having a sample next to the cat’s current food. Eventually, remove the non-prescription diet. This often proves more successful than mixing the two diets together. Another trick is to add some water from canned fish to the food.
Sometimes medication will be prescribed, ranging from appetite stimulants to medicines that help lower protein excreted in urine. Occasionally, cats need to spend time in hospital on fluid therapy to rehydrate and lower toxins in their blood.
Post-diagnosis monitoring is vital and includes blood pressure and blood and urine analysis in conjunction with how the cat looks and behaves. This allows the best possible outcome to be achieved.
By Rebecca Mackay, Vet