As with humans, as cats get older their bodies start to wear out and things can go wrong. In cats, one of the most common organs to fail is the kidneys. Originally cats were desert animals so their kidneys are designed to make very concentrated urine to save precious water. In the wild, bad teeth or arthritis would cause death long before the kidneys wear out but as we can keep our domestic cats alive for much longer the kidneys can give up first. Cats’ kidneys work very hard to make concentrated urine and also to detoxify the high protein diet that carnivores, like cats, require so it is not surprising that poor old cats’ kidneys have a tough deal!
One of the first signs of kidney disease is an increase in drinking. If you notice your cat lapping from unusual places, a trip to the vets is well advised as kidney failure is not the only thing to cause a thirsty cat.
Your vet will probably take a blood sample and also check a urine sample. Kidney problems are diagnosed if there is an increase in certain toxins in the blood and if the urine is very dilute. The latter happens because the kidneys are no longer able to work well enough to make strong urine. Toxins build up because the kidney usually acts as a very efficient filter and saves all the good nutrients from the blood and discards the rubbish into the urine but this filter system fails when the kidneys stop working.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know if your cat is drinking more. You may have numerous cats or you may have an outdoor cat. In this case you may not notice an increase in drinking and the kidneys can get worse until the cat becomes much more poorly. Signs can range from lethargy, to anorexia, vomiting and mouth ulcers.
Obviously a visit to the vets at this stage is much more urgent and it is likely that your cat will require intravenous fluids to flush the kidneys through, once your vet has diagnosed the problem.
The most important therapy for cats with kidney disease is a change in diet to a specific renal diet. It is essential that this is the only food offered to help minimise further damage to the kidneys. Kidney failure is also treated with a particular tablet that helps stop more kidney cells from dying and keep the remaining kidney cells working efficiently. More sever cases may require other medication however this will be discussed at the time of diagnosis.