Kidney disease can affect both dogs and cats, causing a variety of symptoms that can affect their health and quality of life. The role of the kidneys is to filter the blood removing waste products and to maintain the balance of electrolytes in the blood to keep the body hydrated and healthy. The waste products they remove from the blood then leave the body as urine.
Kidney disease or renal disease, occurs when there is a change in the functioning of the kidneys. If the condition of the kidneys continues to deteriorate, this can lead to kidney failure or renal failure. Animals in kidney failure are unable to adequately remove waste products from their blood, which leads to toxicity and illness, and can be potentially fatal.
Kidney disease and kidney failure are more common in cats than dogs, and cats may not show any signs of kidney disease until a large proportion of their kidney function is already lost. This means that by the time you notice any signs of disease, your cat could already be experiencing advanced kidney disease and failure.
Signs of kidney disease
Cats and dogs with kidney disease may often initially drink excessively and urinate more frequently. Other signs of kidney disease can include changes to the pets hair coat so it is of poor quality, they may also suffer from weight loss and can sometimes experience vomiting due to nausea.
If your pet is drinking more and urinating more, you may also notice signs such as urinary incontinence or other inappropriate urination. Cats with kidney failure can often exhibit mouth ulcers, and may have bad breath.
If you notice any of these signs in your pet, it’s recommended to book them in for a veterinary consultation where the vet will perform a full physical examination, and they will often advise that a blood and urine test are undertaken. If the animal’s kidney function is impaired, the blood result will often show elevated levels of the metabolic by-products Creatinine and Urea.
There are other metabolic diseases which can cause similar signs to kidney disease, so the blood and urine tests can help to diagnose the specific cause of any disease process and the severity of the condition.
For senior cats, considering a regular blood screening test to assess their kidney health and other body systems, can be an important part of maintaining the health of your pet, so that any problems can be picked up as early as possible. Other diagnostic tests such as abdominal ultrasound and blood pressure measurement, are also often used to investigate kidney health.
Causes and treatment
Kidney disease can occur due to a variety of reasons, including infections, cancer, toxicity and changes to the body’s immune system. Kidney disease is seen more frequently in cats than dogs, and is also seen more commonly in older cats.
If your pet has been diagnosed with kidney disease or renal failure, depending on the severity of their condition, the treatment will usually involve feeding a specific renal support diet that helps to reduce the amount of work that the kidneys have to do, helping to maintain their optimal function.
Medications may also be prescribed to support the animal’s kidney function. Animals in severe kidney failure often require hospitalisation and treatment with intravenous fluid therapy and other medications.
Monitoring your pet’s eating and drinking patterns, body weight, coat condition, toileting habits and demeanour are all important so that you can report any changes to your vet.
The earlier that any kidney changes are detected, the earlier that the appropriate treatment can be implemented to help keep your pet as healthy as possible.
If you have any further questions, please speak with one of our friendly team.