Cats Need Kidneys! Part 1

Continuing our series of blog posts covering the different conditions that our beloved furry friends face during the course of their lives, this week we are discussing Chronic kidney disease.

CKD? What’s that?

Your cat’s kidneys are vital organs which perform many different functions, but one of the most important is to filter waste products from the blood and excrete it via the urine. In some cases the kidneys’ ability to excrete these waste products is reduced and this leads to a toxic build-up of waste in the blood over time. This condition is known as Chronic kidney disease (CKD).

CKD is more common in older cats but is a condition that can afflict cats no matter their age. The underlying cause is not always immediately obvious, even to your vet, but the following are just a few examples of what can contribute to its development:

  • – previous acute kidney injury
  • – specific infections
  • – tumors
  • – hereditary diseases

When it comes to hereditary diseases there are some breeds that are particularly predisposed to them:

  • – Persian
  • – Abyssinian
  • – Siamese
  • – Ragdoll
  • – Burmese
  • – Russian Blue
  • – Maine Coon


Acute kidney injury can be caused by intoxication and this is a lot more common in outdoor cats. Many of us, especially during winter, will have bottles of motor fluids sitting around, in or outside of the house. Believe it or not, cats are attracted to these and find the sweet taste of antifreeze (Ethylene glycol) particularly tasty. However, even a tiny amount is potentially lethal, so it’s important to keep the bottles well sealed and out of the reach of your pets.

If you suspect that your cat has been in contact with antifreeze you need to take them to the vet immediately!

If you suspect that your cat has been in contact with antifreeze you need to take them to the vet immediately!

What are the symptoms?

As the kidneys become unable to filter the waste as effectively as they should, the rising level of waste will cause your cat to feel unwell. Often this will result in your cat drinking and urinating more than normal because of the kidneys inability to concentrate the urine.

There are, of course, other effects that you should look out for that may indicate that the kidney disease is getting worse. These include:

  • – having a decreased appetite
  • – experiencing weight loss
  • – vomiting and experiencing diarrhea
  • – very rarely, ceasing to produce urine altogether

Hypertension is a complication that can cause damage to the brain, eyes and heart. Your vet will examine the eyes and measure the blood pressure, often with the Doppler method, to diagnose hypertension.

Chronic kidney disease can also lead to anemia (reduced concentration of red blood cells in the blood) and this will make your cat’s gums appear pale pink, and in severe cases white, so this is another way for you to track your pet’s health at home. Bad breath and ulcers are something else to look out for.

Additionally cats with CKD can easily become constipated, so it is important that your cat always has access to water and wet food is recommended.

Remember that the sooner you spot the signs the sooner your vet can confirm the diagnosis and your cat can have the help it needs. In our next blog post we’ll discuss what to do if you suspect your cat is suffering from CKD, and how it can affect your pet’s quality of life, so check in with us again next Monday!

I’m a veterinarian with almost 10 years experience in small animal practice. I’m originally from Sweden but moved to Copenhagen to fulfill my dream of becoming a vet. I’ve been working in Denmark, United Kingdom and back home in Sweden. Animals, especially dogs, has 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 Cavalier King Charles Spaniel follows me anywhere I go.

Caroline Edvinsson

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