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Kidney Failure

Kidney Failure

The kidneys are part of the urinary system and play a vital role in keeping your cat free of toxins and waste that can accumulate in the body. They eliminate waste, maintain the correct balance of water and electrolytes, produce hormones necessary to maintain blood pressure, produce blood cells, absorb salts, and process vitamin D. If one or both kidneys malfunction, it can lead to kidney failure than can be acute or chronic kidney failure.

Kidney failure occurs when the kidneys are no longer able to remove waste products from the blood, or when a blockage in the urinary system causes dangerous levels of toxic waste to build in the blood. Failure takes place so slowly that symptoms may not become obvious until extensive damage is done.

Chronic (long term) kidney failure, also known as chronic renal failure, occurs gradually over months and years and can cause severe damage that prevents the kidneys from functioning properly. Chronic renal failure can start in cats as young as five or six years old, but is more prevalent in older cats. It is estimated that CRF affects approximately 49% of felines over the age of 15.

In the early stages, no symptoms can be detected, however in latter stages you may notice your pet drinking and urinating more frequently. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include vomiting, depression, loss of appetite, weight loss, dehydration, mouth sores, and diarrhea. It is one of the most common forms of kidney failure and one of the major causes of illness and death in older cats. The damage to the kidneys is permanent due to the fact that the disease goes unnoticed for a long period of time. Chronic kidney disease may develop as a result of an illness such as high blood pressure or from other kidney diseases such as phelonephritis, tumors, poor diet, and exposure to excess toxins found in your home and garden.

Chronic kidney disease is classified into four stages. Symptoms show up in stage three and four, when the kidneys are working at 25% of their usual capacity. The disease goes unnoticed for so long that damage to the kidneys is permanent, however proper treatment can improve your cat's quality of life.

Acute (sudden) kidney failure occurs most often in younger pets, however it can affect cats of any age. Acute kidney disease occurs suddenly and usually results from sudden damage to the kidney. It can also develop when toxic chemicals are consumed by your cat or build up in their body as a result of an abnormal condition. Mild kidney disease often goes undetected, however repeated episodes can lead to chronic kidney disease.

Other causes include insufficient oxygen due to blood clots that block the flow of blood into the kidneys and certain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and drugs used to treat pets with heart disease. Renal causes, involving direct damage to the kidneys, include intrinsic kidney disease, kidney trauma, congenital disorders, cancer, infections, and toxins (such as antifreeze or poisonous plants) that attack the kidneys when ingested. When this occurs the organs become inflamed and scared and the critical filtering activity of the kidneys is weakened.

You may notice your cat drinking more water, however this does not mean they are adequately hydrated and it is important you provide a constant supply of water.


  • increased thirst (water consumption)
  • frequent urination
  • poor appetite
  • weight loss
  • depression
  • sores in the mouth
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • lethargy

Additional Support

Avoid processed pet foods in favor of balanced homemade food free of preservatives. It is also important to ensure your cat's teeth are cleaned regularly as oral bacteria can travel through the body and cause kidney damage. It is important to make regular visits to your vet, especially if your cat is diagnosed with a kidney disorder.

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