What is feline chronic renal failure?

Renal failure in cats is a problem of the kidneys. The kidneys are organs in the cat that are responsible for removing waste and toxins from the body and putting it into the urine, where it is expelled. In this disease, the kidneys gradually become unable to function because they are no longer able to process waste in the body as effectively. They essentially poison themselves - as the kidneys cannot process waste as effectively, it starts to build up in the kidneys, where it makes them less effective, which makes the cycle worse. Eventually the kidneys fail completely.


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What is the difference between chronic renal failure and failure in general?

You will often hear this problem referred to as chronic - this just means that it is happening gradually and over time. The other kind of failure of the kidneys is acute failure - a sudden kidney failure in cats. If the failure is sudden, it usually has a different cause - infections, physical injuries, or ingesting a poison are common ones.  

What are the symptoms in cats?

The cat may start drinking water excessively and urinating far more frequently (one of the body's responses is to try to get the excess waste out by urination). Digestive problems such as vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss can be common. You may notice your cat eating litter in some cases. The cat may generally seem sick - lethargic, with a lower quality coat of fur, loss of muscle tissue, and gum problems. You may notice that your cat has bad breath. Most cats that have this problem will be elderly.

What is the cause?

Age is probably the biggest one - sometimes organs just stop working as a cat grows older. The kidneys have problems with this in particular because partial problems will snowball into bigger ones, as described above - the less effective they get, the more wastes build up, making them even less effective, leading to even more waste. Dietary, genetic, and overall health factors such as obesity can play into this as well. Diseases and infections can also be a cause.

What is the treatment for cats?

If a cat's kidneys have been damaged, while you cannot reverse the damage, you can often slow it down and keep the cat alive for some time. Your cat will need to switch to a special diet, and it may need IV fluids at first to get it back to a more healthy level and to allow the kidneys to clear out the built-up wastes. There is also the option of a kidney transplant, but they are fairly expensive and you usually have to adopt the donor cat. Eventually, your cat will probably get to a point where you have to put it down. This is a judgment call based on the lifestyle of your cat and whether it still seems to be happy and enjoying itself and whether it seems to be in pain. Cats with chronic kidney failures live quality lives anywhere from months to years after the failure.

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