Kidney disease in cats

Chronic kidney disease is one of the most common diseases in older cats. For this reason, all cats older than 7 years of age should undergo an annual checkup and kidney screening.

Cats drink a lot more and may demand water from the tap

Symptoms of chronic kidney disease

– Increased water intake. Cats may start demanding that you open the tap, or drink from a pond or pool, or try to get water from your glass

– increased urination

– urinating in a different place to where they usually do

– weight loss

– decreased grooming: they may start looking unkempt

– pale gums

– pain when you pick them up under their tummies

– constipation

What tests will be done?

“The first test we do is a urine test,” says veterinarian Dr Ingrid de Wet. “If the urine is very concentrated it indicates that the kidneys have at least 65% function. If the urine is dilute, this is a warning sign and indicates that further testing is required.

“The next test we do is a blood test and we test the following two parameters: urea and creatinine. This test is easy to run and we can do it in the clinic while you wait – these values start increasing when the kidneys have only 25% function left. “Unfortunately, there are other reasons why these values may increase so if they are high we will send more blood to the laboratory to run what is called an SDMA test. This is a new test very specific to kidneys. It picks up kidney disease much earlier than other tests. It is also great for monitoring kidney function in the long term.

“If the cat is diagnosed with kidney failure, then we run a phosphate test and a test to determine if the cat is losing protein in the urine as this affects what medications need to be prescribed.”

What treatment will my cat need?

Many cats will need to be admitted to hospital for a few days if they are very dehydrated in order to get them stable.

The next step is to slowly introduce them to a diet specially formulated for kidney patients. Our diet of choice is Hills k/d. If the tests indicate that it is necessary, they may go on medication to bind phosphate in the diet and to decrease protein loss in the urine.

Your cat will need to visit your vet regularly for weigh-ins and blood and urine tests to monitor its progress. If he/she dehydrates often, you will be taught how to give subcutaneous fluid (fluid under the skin) to prevent your cat from being hospitalised for a drip.

Skye was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure

Skye’s story

Meet Skye Kelly. This beautiful girl is 12 years of age and was rescued as a tiny kitten by mom Carla. Several months ago, Skye was at death’s door. Her mom and dad had been on holiday but when they returned Skye was nowhere to be found. Though the very reliable housesitters had looked after her and her brother Vespa well, Skye now appeared to be in hiding.

“I knew something was wrong,” says mom Carla. When she eventually found Skye the cat had lost her usual energy and enthusiasm. She had lost a significant amount of weight and was limp when picked up.

Dissatisfied with the diagnosis she initially received at a nearby clinic, Carla took Skye to Country Animal Clinic. 

“She was terribly dehydrated. She had lost a third of her body weight.”

At Country Animal Clinic Skye was put on a drip for three days. “The most urgent need was to rehydrate her,” explains veterinarian Dr Ingrid de Wet. Skye also underwent the necessary urine and blood tests.

At first, says Skye’s mom, her chances looked slim but with the right treatment she began to recover.

“The clinic taught me how to inject her fluids subcutaneously to keep her constantly hydrated.  I have done this every day for almost two months.”

Skye was also put onto blood pressure medication which, says Dr Ingrid, helps to correct hydration and protein levels.  

“At her most recent check up Dr Ingrid told me she has recovered so well I don’t have to hydrate her anymore,” says mom Carla.

Skye has recovered remarkably well

“Skye has put on weight. She is fat, healthy and playing again.”

Skye won’t need to return for a checkup for another six months.

She’s on a new diet, Hill’s k/d, and daily medication and is her old, happy, playful self again.

“She is doing amazingly well,” says mom Carla.