Chronic kidney failure is a common disease in middle-aged
to older pets of all species and breeds. It is hereditary in
Abyssinian and Persian cats and in Bull terriers, Cairn terriers,
Samoyed and German shepherd dogs.
Over the years the kidneys sustain damage and deteriorate
until they fail to function adequately. The disease is terminal and
irreversible. The kidneys are a major organ, essential for many
functions, including detoxicating the body via blood filtering and
urine production. Other functions of the kidneys include controlling
the water volume and blood pressure, regulating calcium and blood
production and more. Failure to maintain those functions is
Animals with failing kidneys develop signs related to the
above functions and toxin build-up. They include excessive drinking
and urination (Polyuria/Polydipsia), progressive weight loss, anemia
(lack of blood), bone fragility, digestive problems (vomiting,
diarrhea, constipation, anorexia, and nausea), dehydration, high
blood pressure, blindness, oral ulcerations, weakness, depression
Many animals do not show signs of illness until the very
late stages and can go undetected for years. Early stages are
difficult to detect and routine blood and urine tests indicate
problems after much of the kidney function is already lost. It is
extremely crucial to monitor older pets closely (general behavior,
eating, drinking, urination, defecation) and incorporate blood and
urine tests in the periodic veterinary visit. The diagnosis is based
on the physical exam, blood and urine tests, x-rays and ultrasounds,
biopsies, blood pressure and eye exam.
There is no cure for the disease and the treatment is aimed
at reducing the damage and helping correct the effects on the body.
Special kidney sparing diets and fluid therapy are the hallmark of
the treatment. Other medications are used to control urinary and
secondary infections, increasing deficient elements (potassium,
calcium, red blood cells), limiting toxins (phosphorus), lowering
the blood pressure and supporting the digestive functions.
Cats might be helped by kidney transplantation, which is
available at some of the veterinary school hospitals and large
Chronic kidney failure patients may survive from months to
a few years with treatment, depending on the specific case and
circumstances. Transplanted cats can survive several years.