Warning Signs Of Kidney Failure In Cats Serious Symptoms To Look Out For

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Kidney failure is a serious condition that can potentially be fatal if not diagnosed quickly. Learn what important warning signs to keep an eye out for in order to get your cat the vital help they need. Learn more here.

The kidneys are vital for cats, responsible for producing crucial hormones and enzymes, aiding the development of red blood cells, regulating blood pressure, removing wastes from the bloodstream, and more essential functions. When this organ fails, there are warning signs.

Depending on the type of kidney disease, however, the warning signs of kidney failure in cats may appear right away or not for a long period of time.

  • With acute renal or kidney failure; most commonly caused by ingesting toxins like antifreeze, pesticides, or medications intended for people; signs appear within a week or a month and the organ and its functions shut down very rapidly.

  • With chronic renal or kidney failure, the more common form of kidney failure that is usually found in older cats, the functions fail over time and signs of the disease may not be apparent for a long time, often due to aging.

Signs of Acute Kidney Failure in Cats

These quick-to-appear symptoms may cause affected pets to go into shock. If these symptoms seem familiar, head to the vet. The vet will likely discover that the cat has swollen kidneys that are causing discomfort. Emergency treatment will probably be required. The good news is that this form of kidney disease is not always fatal if it is detected and treated early. If treated immediately, the disease should not affect your catโ€™s life expectancy.

Signs of Chronic Kidney Failure in Cats

What causes this form of kidney failure is not known, but many other health issues are linked to this disease. Cats with chronic kidney failure may also show signs of the following:

Some cat breeds, including the Maine Coon, Abyssinian, Persian, Siamese, Russian Blue, and Burmese, may be more prone to the condition.

Since the disease is gradual, when and how severe the signs appear varies from cat to cat. They include:

  • Excessive drinking and urination
  • Urinary incontinence; your cat may not be able to sleep through the night without needing to relieve herself or himself
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Appetite loss
  • Depression
  • Anemia, as indicated by pale gums and lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Weak bones or bone fractures
  • Sudden blindness
  • Irritated skin
  • Bruising
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Thinning hair
  • Change in body posture and movements
  • Constipation
  • Drooling
  • Grooming less often
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If you suspect your cat may be suffering from chronic kidney disease, consult with a veterinarian. Hospitalization may be required. The life expectancy for affected cats can be months to years.

The 4 Most Common Causes Of Cat Renal Failure

Catsโ€™ 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, youโ€™ll be acting quickly in order to prevent issues and get your petโ€™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 donโ€™t seem to know theyโ€™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 catโ€™s kidneys could be irreparably damaged.

Signs of antifreeze poisoning:

  • At first, due to the alcohol in antifreeze, your cat will act as if theyโ€™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:

  • Youโ€™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 canโ€™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 itโ€™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 isnโ€™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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