Cat kidneys function the same as humans and are an integral part of their body system. The kidneys have a myriad of functions including excretion of waste products, hormone production, and maintaining fluid balance, electrolytes, and blood pressure.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is the most common kidney disease affecting cats 7 years and older, but it can affect cats of any age. CKD develops when there has been ongoing injury to the kidneys that has resulted in irreversible damage. There are many possible causes of injury including infection, toxins or tumours, however in many cases, a specific cause cannot be found.
Signs and symptoms of CKD are usually subtle to begin with and gradually get worse as the disease progresses. Some typical signs include drinking and urinating more, weight-loss, loss of appetite and vomiting. The rate of progression of clinical signs varies between individual cats.
Diagnosis of CKD can be made with a blood and urine sample. Your vet may also suggest x-rays or ultrasound to better assess the size and architecture of the kidneys. After diagnosis your vet will stage the CKD from Stage 1 to Stage 4 which will help determine the appropriate management. Many cats with CKD survive for years after diagnosis with good management.
Management depends on the individual patient and underlying cause for CKD. It can include medication, therapeutic foods and fluid therapy which can be done in hospital or sometimes at home. There is no cure for CKD, so treatment focuses on managing symptoms.
Early diagnosis of CKD can prolong a good quality of life. Yearly veterinary check-ups for mature and older cats can allow early detection and early commencement of treatment.