Animal Health & Welfare • "Kidney Disease"

Animal Health & Welfare • "Kidney Disease"

     Meet Jilly Beans, one of my favorite patients of all time. She is, what I call, a ‘kidney cat’. Jilly Beans is a 17 year old kitty with chronic kidney disease that I’ve been treating with subcutaneous fluids for almost a year. 

Chronic renal disease is, unfortunately, pretty common in geriatric cats. It is a progressive and irreversible loss of functioning kidney tissue. Chronic kidney disease in cats will cause an increased water intake (you might notice your kitty drinking more water than she normally does) as well as an increase in urination (you might notice your cat going to the litter box twice as many times per day). Other signs of chronic renal disease in cats are weight loss, anorexia (or loss of appetite) and anemia.

     Why do kidney cats show these signs? A function of the kidneys is to concentrate urine- which contributes to the body’s hydration status. If the kidneys are not functioning properly and cannot concentrate urine, the patient will urinate more, decreasing their hydration status. This is what causes the kidney cat’s routine of drinking more water, being unable to concentrate their urine, urinating more, becoming more dehydrated, drinking more water, being unable to concentrate their urine, urinating more, becoming more dehydrated….

     What can we do for our kitties before we see any of these signs? Early detection is key- if we catch an irreversible disease early, we can possibly slow its progression with treatment. Blood work and a urinalysis from your veterinarian will provide crucial information. For example, high BUN (or blood urea nitrogen) levels in the blood can indicate abnormal kidney function- if the kidneys cannot filter waste products from the urine, these products will go back into the bloodstream. One component of the urinalysis, specific gravity, indicates the number and weight of particles in the urine, thus the concentrating ability of the kidneys.

     Some tips that can possibly help to prevent chronic kidney disease in cats include feeding wet food (moisture-rich raw or canned), maintaining your kitty’s oral health (a healthy mouth is less work for the kidneys) and keeping litter-box conditions clean (to prevent UTIs, or urinary tract infections).

     Should your kitty be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, your veterinarian can help with slowing the progression of this disease by developing a treatment plan that can include fluid therapy, a special prescription kidney diet and renal support supplements. 

And Jilly Beans shares that her favorite is getting scratched under her chin while getting her fluids- she’s just sayin’. 

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