Maybole Surgery: 01655 883 531
Ayr Surgery: 01292 880 110Opening hours
Chronic renal failure (CRF), also known as chronic kidney disease, is one of the most common conditions affecting older cats. It has been estimated that around one in five cats over 15 years old has renal failure. CRF is a progressive condition without a cure, therefore early diagnosis and supportive treatment are required to slow the progression and improve your cat’s quality of life.
CRF occurs where there is long-standing, irreversible damage to the kidneys which impairs their function. Some of the known causes include:
If an underlying cause can be found and if this is treatable, the progression of the CRF may be halted. In most cases however a specific cause is not found and treatment is aimed at management of the disease.
The kidneys have a variety of functions including removing toxins from the blood and maintaining water and salt balance in the body. Blood is continually filtered through both kidneys removing the toxic waste products and urine is produced in the process. The kidneys also concentrate urine by reabsorbing water into the body, preventing dehydration.
Other important functions include maintaining the balance of important electrolytes (such as potassium, sodium, calcium and phosphate), regulating the acidity of blood and controlling blood pressure. The kidneys also release a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production by the bone marrow.
The kidneys have a large ‘reserve capacity’ and about 70% of the functioning tissue must be lost before any signs of renal failure will develop.
The signs may be mild or vague initially but with time the clinical signs tend to worsen. High blood pressure and anaemia are some of the other conditions that develop as a consequence of kidney failure.
Diagnosis is usually made following analysis of a blood and urine sample. The two main substances measured in the blood are urea and creatinine which are normally excreted by the kidneys. These substances increase in the blood when the kidneys are not functioning properly. The urine is usually poorly concentrated (normally less than 1.030 on a concentration scale).
Treat any underlying cause if one can be found. Many cats will require initial intravenous fluids therapy to correct dehydration and flush out the toxins building up in the blood. Once stable, treatment is aimed at supporting renal function and minimising complications. Unfortunately CRF cannot be reversed and will progress over time despite appropriate therapy.
High blood pressure – (hypertension) is common in CRF cats and can lead to other problems related to bleeding. This can be treated with medication.
Treatment of anaemia, nausea and vomiting may also be required intermittently to improve
your cat’s quality of life.
Use of ‘ACE inhibitors’ – these are a class of drugs which dilate the blood vessels and are commonly used to help manage renal failure. They appear to help maintain renal function and reduce protein loss through the kidneys.
Unfortunately the disease is usually progressive and will eventually lead to the need for euthanasia. The rate of progression however varies hugely between individuals and appropriate support and treatment can improve the quality of life and slow the progression of the disease.