Most people recognize cancer as the silent killer of pets, but did you also know kidney disease can take your cat's life unexpectedly. In fact, according to the Morris Animal Foundation, chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the number one killer of cats in the U.S. To better prepare and protect your cat from this horrible affliction, read on and learn a bit more about how kidney disease affects cats.
According the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, your cat's kidneys "act as a complex filter that removes from blood wastes that are generated from break down of food, old cells, toxins or poisons and many drugs that are given for treatment of other diseases." Your cat's two kidneys also help regulate blood pressure and calcium and vitamin D metabolism as well as produce a substance that helps with the creation of new red blood cells. Due to the various functions of the kidneys, a cat with kidney disease may display a multitude of signs. However, these signs may not become apparent as quickly as you'd imagine.
Kidneys are made up of microscopic nephrons. As your cat ages or if the kidneys become damaged, some nephrons begin to die and other reserve (or "resting") nephrons take over. Once there are no extra nephrons remaining, your cat may begin to display signs of kidney damage such as loss of appetite, weight loss, increased thirst, and anemia. However, this often only occurs once 75% of kidney function (2/3 of nephrons) has been lost. This is why it so important you bring your cat to veterinarian at least once a year and remain vigilant for unusual signs in your cat's behavior. It may help prevent your cat from developing kidney disease in the first place.
Ultimately the severity of your cat's kidney disease signs will determine what treatments are needed. Some common forms of kidney disease treatment include medication, fluid therapy, dialysis and dietary management. Often cats with kidney disease will be given a diet that is low is phosphorus, salt, and protein. A veterinarian may also recommend that your senior cat be given a diet that is lower in protein if undetected or early renal insufficiency is suspected.
There are many different causes of kidney disease — birth defects, cancer, toxins and nutritional factors, to name a few. That is why it is crucial to bring your cat in for regular veterinary exams and discuss with him or her how to best keep your cat healthy.