Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kitty Kidneys

Did you know?
As a cat matures (sorry kitties, it happens to the best of us) it is important to keep an eye on his or her kidney function. That seems like a rather obtuse statement so let me clarify. Unfortunately, older kitties are more prone to develop kidney disease. The clinical name you might hear is chronic renal failure or CRF. Cats tend to be discreet and try to hide any symptoms of sickness so it is often late in the game before chronic renal failure is diagnosed. The best outcome for a cat with CRF is directly tied with an early diagnosis and supportive care from a loving owner.

Let me tell you why.
The easiest symptom change to watch for in an indoor cat is increased drinking and increased urination. Other symptoms include dehydration (indicated by dry gums and skin that is slow to return to normal when pulled up at the base of the neck), constipation, weight loss, change in smell, drooling and/or nausea or vomiting. CRF is the process of the kidneys slowly loosing the ability to filter waste and toxins out of the blood. Often, by the time these symptoms appear the kidneys can be as much as 70% shut down and treatment is needed right away. Unfortunately, the damage to the kidneys is usually progressive and irreversible.

Two common tests that will be preformed at the hospital are blood chemistry and a urinalysis. The blood test may be either a full blood panel or a quick test and is used to monitor creatinine levels, electrolyte levels, and blood urea nitrogen (or BUN, the waste levels in the blood). The urinalysis is used to measure the amount of protein in the urine and the concentration of the urine.

Depending on the progression of the disease, therapy might include subcutaneous fluids, where fluids are administered through a needle that is inserted under the skin of the cat and then absorbed into the body, or IV fluids for faster rehydration; medications to control nausea, vomiting, and anemia; and dietary management. Diet management can vary, but it usually means canned food that has a higher water content, home prepared diets, or special diets with a lower protein content.

There are some wonderful websites available that provide a lot more detail about the development, progression, treatment and potential outcome of CRF diagnosed kitties.

- Feline CRF Information Center -
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine put together a very nice video that provides information on many aspects of CRF.
- Pawprints & Purrs, Inc., a non-profit educational organization -

The moral of the story...regular care through your family veterinarian can help keep your kitty's kidneys healthy.

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