A Very Thirsty Cat....

Is your older cat spending a lot of time at the water bowl recently?  Increased thirst and the associated increased urination may be a symptom of kidney (renal) disease.

Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) is a relatively common and debilitating disease in cats.  Most commonly it occurs in older cats due to gradual deterioration of kidney function.

The kidneys have numerous vital functions within the body.  These include   

  • working like a filter to remove waste products from the blood
  • maintaining electrolytes at the correct level, eg potassium
  • maintaining hydration and producing urine

CRF is a serious condition in which there is gradual, irreversible deterioration of kidney function.  This can occur over a period of months or years.  The kidneys have a large amount of spare capacity to perform their various functions, so at least 75% of the kidney is affected before clinical signs are seen.

Typical early signs include increased thirst, decreased appetite, weight loss and lethargy.  Poor coat condition, bad breath and vomiting can develop as renal disease progresses.  A lot of these symptoms can be signs of other diseases such as Diabetes or Hyperthyroidism, which is why an accurate diagnosis is required.  CRF is diagnosed through a combination of blood and urine tests.

Unfortunately once damaged, the kidney has minimal ability to regenerate – treatment is based on management rather than cure.  If caught early the progression of kidney disease can often be slowed, and the cat’s quality of life significantly improved.

Diet change is a crucial part of managing CRF.  Prescription veterinary diets have been designed to carefully manage levels of nutrient and electrolytes, which reduces the strain on the kidneys.  For fussy cats which refuse prescription diets, a phosphate binding drug may be administered to their regular food to prevent excessive levels of phosphate building up in the blood stream.  Some cats will require bouts of intravenous or subcutaneous fluids if they become dehydrated.  Multivitamins, anabolic steroids and anti-nausea drugs may also be used.