The 4 Most Common Causes Of Cat Renal Failure Kidney Failure In Cats

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Renal failure is just as serious in cats as it is for us pet parents. Kidneys are simply an organ that our cats just can't do without. So when your cat falls into complete kidney failure, it is important to act fast. Learn what the 4 most common causes of cat renal failure are here.

Cats’ kidneys, just like ours, are filters. They remove metabolic waste and other toxic substances from the blood, creating urine. They also produce a number of important hormones. Without properly functioning kidneys, a cat develops a whole range of health problems and can eventually die from a buildup of toxins in the blood. Read on to learn to most common causes for cat renal failure.

Acute vs. Chronic Renal Failure

Acute renal failure means the kidneys stop working suddenly. In these cases, you’ll be acting quickly in order to prevent issues and get your pet’s kidneys working again.

Chronic renal failure comes on slowly, and with proper treatment a cat can live with badly damaged kidneys for months, occasionally longer. Still, if treatment begins before the kidneys actually fail, that is much better; these are the cats who typically live on for years and don’t seem to know they’re sick.


1. Poisoning

Antifreeze and some plants are common poisons for cats. Cats can ingest antifreeze by drinking from puddles in the street. As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze can lead to renal failure. Once antifreeze poisoning reaches the kidneys it is probably too late. If your cat drinks antifreeze, get to a vet within a few hours, otherwise your cat’s kidneys could be irreparably damaged.

Signs of antifreeze poisoning:

  • At first, due to the alcohol in antifreeze, your cat will act as if they’re a bit drunk.

  • The tipsiness will pass, and in a couple of hours, your cat may begin to strain while trying to urinate. This is because the tiny passages between the kidneys and urethra have become plugged.

Also, get to know which house plants, like lillies, can be toxic to pets, and keep them out of the home, as they can end up causing kidney failure as well.

2. A Blocked Urinary Tract

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, or FLUTD, is a description of a number of conditions with one thing in common -- they all cause blockage to the urethra. Bladder stones are the most common cause of FLUTD, followed by poor diet. Vets may recommend a special diet or recommend specific prescription food such as the Royal Canin Feline Renal Support S Dry Cat Food. Less common causes include infections and injury to another part of the body, like a broken bone or pelvic fracture, that might obstruct the urinary pathways.

Signs of FLUTD and Blocked Urinary Tract:

  • You’ll have to notice that your cat is straining at the litter box and call the vet before the urine starts to back up and poison the kidneys or the blood.

3. Overuse of Medications

Long-term use of medication can cause serious kidney problems, especially in already weakened cats. Discuss with your vet the use of NSAIDs, in particular, if their use proceeds beyond normal amounts of time.

4. Congenital or Developmental Kidney Problems

In these cases, cats either inherit kidney problems from one of their parents, or have a malformation of some part of the kidney. There are a number of forms of feline kidney disease, some of which appear to be genetic, but there are many uncertainties regarding feline kidney failure. Many cases of feline renal failure can’t be traced to any one cause.

Symptoms of Congential Kidney Problems

  • Unlike the two scenarios mentioned above, excessive urination and excessive thirst are early signs of congentinal kidney problems in cats.
  • These symptoms may be combined with low energy and weight loss.

In these cases, treatment is more about treating the symptoms rather than curing the cause.

5.  Reduced Blood Flow to the Kidneys Due to Another Ailment

Here things can get a big complicated. For example, cats with high blood pressure often have kidney problems, but it’s unknown if high blood pressure causes kidney damage in cats or the other way around. Gum disease is also common in kidney patients, but again the cause and effect relationship isn’t clear. Hyperthyroidism might cause kidney damage, and the two diseases often go together, but the symptoms of hyperthyroidism mask the symptoms of kidney failure, making it much harder to diagnose.

Recognizing Renal Failure

Besides keeping your cat away from toxins, your best bet is to know your cat well enough to notice abnormal behavior. Take any changes, especially those relating to litter box behavior, seriously. Remember, renal failure can present as straining to urinate, or urinating excessively.

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