Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is one of the most prevalent medical conditions experienced by aging cats. Indeed, it is among the greatest causes of feline mortality. A cat’s damaged kidneys can no longer function, which leads to death. As this is unpleasant and painful, most owners elect to have cats with end-stage CKD euthanized.
Here is a look at why so many cats get CKD, what scientists believe causes it, and what you can do if your kitty has it:
What is CKD?
CKD is a progressive kidney disease that causes irreversible damage to a cat’s kidneys. At first, symptoms will be mild before gradually declining until the end-stage of the condition, where the kidneys fail entirely. How long it will take to reach this stage cannot be predicted as CKD progresses differently from one feline to another. The rate of decline could be gradual or steep. There are a number of brands such as Blue Buffalo, Royal Canin, and Scruffy Paws that offer healthy kidney support for cats’ treatment with or without CKD.
Medicines and herbal treatments can prolong a cat’s life by slowing CKD progress and improving a feline’s quality of life. However, once a cat is diagnosed with CKD, any treatment should be cleared with your veterinarian first.
Why are cats susceptible to CKD?
There is no one specific trigger linked to the onset of CKD, and vets regard it as idiopathic, meaning there is no fixed cause. However, when looking at the kidneys’ function, it is apparent that any problems can lead to severe illness. Kidneys balance fluid in the body, produce hormones, regulate electrolytes, and excrete liquid waste products. With so many vital tasks, kidney health is essential.
Doctors advise humans to drink at least two liters of water a day, partly because it flushes out the kidneys to maintain their health. Few cats ingest enough water, relying instead on their food to provide it to their bodies. Percentages of water contact vary from one cat food type to another and between brands. Dry cat food has the least water in it, while moist cat food has the most. Your cat is unlikely to drink sufficient water from its bowl like a dog would. Therefore, ensure that it is getting enough water via the cat food you feed it.
However, cats with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), which is a genetic condition, kidney tumors, kidney infections, the ingestion of toxins, or glomerulonephritis, are susceptible to CKD. Additionally, high blood calcium levels, low blood potassium levels, kidney birth defects, trauma from an external source, and feline diabetes could also lead to CKD.
Symptoms of CKD
Vigilant cat owners can detect CKD symptoms if they know what to look for. Treatment during the initial stages is more likely to be successful than when left too late.
Signs that your kitty could have kidney problems include changes in weight and energy levels. Some cats go off their food and start losing weight. Others might continue eating but not maintain their body weight. Cats with kidney conditions tend to become weaker and lethargic, spending more time sleeping than they did before.
Cats with kidney problems also show signs of increased thirst and more frequent urination. High blood pressure can also be an indicator of CKD as elevated sodium levels in the kidneys cause it. Vomiting, other digestive upsets, and bad breath can also indicate something is wrong with a cat’s kidneys.
Diagnosis of CKD
A vet will take blood and urine samples from your cat for testing to see if it has CKD. Urea and creatine levels in the blood that are higher than accepted levels will indicate kidney trouble. Low urine concentration is another sign that something is wrong. The vet might also ask for the cat’s blood to be tested for low blood potassium, anemia, and high blood phosphate.
As hypertension is associated with chronic kidney disease, a vet will check your cat’s blood pressure. Additional test procedures, such as ultrasounds, x-rays, and biopsies, might be necessary to assess the kidneys. This will rely on the vet’s discretion in making an accurate diagnosis.
CKD treatments are predominantly symptomatic as the disease has no known cure. They aim to stabilize and optimize kidney functioning to minimize the complications that CKD presents.
Dietary modification can make significant improvements in feline kidney functioning. It can slow down the disease’s progression. Most cats diagnosed with CKD fall into the senior category, which is seven years or older. Find out about senior cat foods that may contain a better balance of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fluid for an aging feline body. Like humans, felines’ dietary requirements change as they age.
Senior cat food should contain low phosphate levels and reduced proteins. Restricting protein intake is a double-edged sword as these nutrients form the basis of a healthy cat diet. Discuss any proposed dietary changes with your veterinarian before implementing them. Dietary alternations should be introduced slowly, especially for cats that are fussy eaters.