Chronic renal failure (CRF) is a common condition affecting older or senior cats. Chronic renal failure in cats advances over time. There is no cure for this disease and it will progress over time. Your cat’s condition and individual characteristics will determine how fast this occurs. Proper identification and treatment will enable you to slow the progression making your cat more comfortable and increasing lifespan. Although CRF has been seen in younger cats it is most commonly encountered as a disease in middle aged to old cats.
The cat is an unusual animal in that it has the ability to concentrate its urine; if you are a cat owner then you know the pungent smell of concentrated feline urine. However, in cats with CRF, this ability gradually disappears and cats then produce diluted urine. The urine looks weaker in color, has little odor and the cat will often produce large amounts. Some cats also lose protein in their urine and foamy urine can be a sign of this.
In most cases where chronic renal failure is diagnosed, the exact cause of the disease is usually unknown and treatment is aimed at management of the disease. Some of the common signs found in cats with CRF are a poor appetite, weight loss, and dehydration. You will notice an increase in thirst in the affected cat as well as excessive urination (CRF cats increasingly lose the ability to concentrate urine and will drink and urinate more and more often). This is the first clue for many cat owners that there is a problem (If you use clumping litter you will notice larger and larger clumps). As the disease progresses in your cat you will notice that these increases will continue to escalate over time.
The increase in urination that occurs in cats with kidney failure leads the cat to drink more and more in an attempt to avoid becoming dehydrated and flush toxins out of its system. Cat chronic renal failure gives them a bit of an obsession with water, and may play with their water bowl or paw at the water which is what my CRF cat did for years sitting with his face just above the bowl.
The typical cat with feline chronic renal failure is not in pain. Some of the symptoms of chronic renal failure in cats can be uncomfortable, e.g. dehydration is often described as feeling like a hangover, but they are not painful, and in most cases are easily treatable. My cat with kidney failure lived for years with the disease and was very happy up till the end.
As the kidneys gradually lose their ability to regulate and remove waste products effectively, these waste products build up in the blood and can make a cat feel very unwell. The cat may be unable to raise his or her head properly and in most CRF cats is a symptom of potassium deficiency. This also happened to my CRF cat and culminated in our decision of euthanasia as he was very old and had battled the disease for many years.
The good news is that most of the symptoms can be controlled with a dietary regimen and dietary supplements, as well as IV fluids and others measures depending on the cat’s condition. A cat with chronic renal failure can have a happy loving life for many years after diagnosis which was the case with my cat. Your vet can assist you with the necessary information on what your cat needs to extend its life and remain a part of your family as long as possible.