Kidney Disease

Last updated 9 May 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever BVSc (Hons)

The kidneys perform a number of functions vital to your pet's health, most notably they filter waste products from the bloodstream and help to maintain the correct fluid and electrolyte balance to keep the body functioning properly. When enough of the kidney is damaged it is no longer able to perform these functions, and if both kidneys are affected, this results in chronic kidney (renal) disease.

What Causes Kidney Disease?

Kidney disease may be classified by your cat's veterinarian as either acute or chronic. Acute kidney injury occurs suddenly, often in response to toxins, drugs, shock, infection, severe dehydration or urinary tract blockage. Once the cause is removed and proper treatment is provided, many cats with acute kidney failure can make a complete recovery. Chronic, or long term kidney disease may also result from the same causes of acute kidney injury. It can also be caused by breed and hereditary factors as well as potential immune system problems.

What are the Signs of Kidney Disease?

Signs of kidney disease can include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy

If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, check with your veterinarian. They can do blood and urine tests to check your pet's kidney function.

How is Chronic Kidney Disease Treated?

Unfortunately chronic kidney disease is a permanent and progressive condition that cannot be cured. Treatment of chronic kidney disease is aimed at slowing the progression of the disease, and reducing symptoms to improve your pet's quality of life. The most critical part of treatment is the use of a veterinary prescription diet formulated specifically for pets with kidney disease. Prescription diets contain lower levels of protein to reduce the levels of toxic waste products circulating in the blood stream. They also have reduced levels of phosphorus which can protect the kidneys from further damage and can increase life expectancy, particularly in cats.

There are also therapeutic diets available for dogs and cats suffering from both kidney disease and osteoarthritis - Hills Canine K/d and Mobility and Hills Feline K/d and Mobility

Increasing Water Intake

Pets with chronic kidney disease are prone to dehydration, and increasing their water intake is important to counteract this and may also help to slow the progression of their kidney disease. Along with making sure your pet has access to fresh water at all times, an easy way to increase your pet's water intake is to offer them the wet food varieties of the kidney diets. Providing a water fountain is also a great way to keep your loved one well hydrated, as many pets prefer running water!

Regular Vet Check Ups

As chronic kidney disease is a progressive and life-long condition, regular check ups with your vet are essential for monitoring this disease as well as detecting any complications as soon as they arise. Unfortunately chronic kidney disease can lead to other diseases such as high blood pressure and anaemia, and your veterinarian may prescribe medication to help manage these conditions.