Cats Need Kidneys! Part 2

In our last blog post we began discussing Chronic Kidney Disease and how it can affect your cat. We also covered the symptoms you should be looking out for. This time we’re going to discuss what you should do if you suspect your cat is suffering from CKD and how you can help your cat’s quality of life if it is confirmed.

If you suspect your cat has CKD

Your vet should begin with a clinical examination so they can, amongst other things:

  • – Assess your cat’s level of dehydration.
  • – Perform an oral examination and assess the colour of the gums.
  • – Feel the abdomen to assess the size and structure of the kidneys and signs of constipation.
  • – Perform an ocular (retinal) examination.
  • – Take your cat’s blood pressure. This is particularly important and should be done when your cat is relatively relaxed, at the beginning of the consultation.

Pro Tip 1! It’s good practice for your vet to use IRIS. The International Renal Interest Society (IRIS), is a staging system for CKD in cats and dogs. The system is intended to facilitate communication between vets (and vets to owners) about the diagnosis, treatment and outcome of CKD. It accurately assesses the severity of your cat’s CKD by measuring the following:

  • – creatinine levels in the blood
  • – blood pressure
  • – the amount of protein lost in the urine

The blood concentrations of other components, such as BUN, electrolytes (sodium, potassium), phosphorus, calcium, red blood cells, and proteins are also important to evaluate when CKD is suspected.

An examination of a sterile urine sample (often taken directly with a needle through the abdominal wall into the bladder, usually the cats do not react at all and it is considered safe) is also important to assess the ability to concentrate urine, pH, presence of protein, blood cells and bacteria. It is also important to examine the urine to rule out the possibility of a urinary tract infection.

Diagnostic imaging tools such as radiographs and abdominal ultrasound can also be useful in the evaluation of CKD.

Provide your cat with plenty of free access to water, even if your cat drinks a lot!

Quality of life with CKD

When a cat has developed CKD, there is unfortunately no cure for the disease. But there are many treatment options that can prolong and improve the quality of life.

Remember to always provide your cat with plenty of free access to water, even if your cat drinks a lot! Cats shouldn’t be without food for long, so if your pet refuses the new diet don’t persist! It’s better to just give your cat the old diet if that is what will make them happy.

Pro Tip 2! Studies show that therapeutic kidney diets that are low in protein, phosphorus and sodium content, but high in vitamins, fibre and antioxidants may prolong life and improve the quality of life for cats with CKD.

With both wet and dry food options it’s up to the cat to decide what they prefer. If you’re changing your cat’s diet it is a good idea to gradually introduce the new menu to make your furry friend more accepting, and also avoid any bad reactions to the sudden change. Anti-nausea and appetite stimulating medications are available to help your pet feel better.

There also exist medications for controlling hypertension, decreasing urinary protein loss, supplement potassium and bind phosphorus. Cats with CKD may produce less erythropoietin in the kidneys, which leads to anemia, and there is some evidence that replacement therapy can increase red blood cell counts. In some severe cases, blood transfusions may be necessary to restore normal red blood cell concentration.

More advanced therapy, such as hemodialysis (removal of toxic waste products from the bloodstream) and kidney transplants, are available in certain countries.

Studies suggest that the earlier CKD is diagnosed, and treatment is initiated, the better the outcome. So keep an eye on the symptoms we mentioned in our previous blog post, Cats Need Kidneys Part 1, and track your cat’s drinking habits to keep an eye on their health.

I’m a veterinarian with almost 10 years experience in small animal practice. I’m originally from Sweden but moved to Copenhagen to fulfil my dream of becoming a vet. I’ve worked in Denmark and the United Kingdom, and now I am back home in Sweden. Animals, especially dogs, have always been a big part of my life. Being a vet and helping animals, and their owners, feels more like a privilege than a job.
Alvin, my beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel follows me anywhere I go.

Caroline Edvinsson

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