What Are the Signs of Kidney Failure in Cats?

Kidney failure is most common in cats older than 7.
Kidney failure is most common in cats older than 7. (Image: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Your cat's kidneys perform several vital functions, including the filtration of toxins from her bloodstream. When these organs don't function correctly, she can experience a variety of unpleasant symptoms, making her very sick. If you notice any changes in your cat's behavior and her eating or drinking habits, bring her to a veterinarian right away because kidney failure is fatal in cats if not treated quickly.

Water Intake and Bathroom Habits

When your kitty's kidneys start to fail, they lose their ability to filter waste products out of her body, including urea, minerals and toxic substances, from her blood through her urine. To compensate for this, your cat may drink much more water than usual to help get rid of these waste products. She'll also urinate more often due to her increased fluid intake and may urinate outside of her litter box. Her urine will be very dilute because her kidneys won't be able to filter any waste products through the urine. Urinary tract infections are common in cats with kidney failure because dilute urine encourages the growth of bacteria and could cause blood in the urine, which you'll notice in her litter box. In later stages of kidney failure, she may urinate much less than usual and may experience pain when urinating.

Appetite and Energy Level

As kidney disease progresses, your cat will become lethargic, depressed and eat less than usual, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The buildup of toxins in her bloodstream makes your cat nauseous, which is why she will eat less and eventually stop eating. As she stops eating, she'll begin to lose weight. She may begin vomiting or have diarrhea, both of which can contribute to her weight loss. Her appetite also could be affected negatively by the development of ulcers in her mouth due to the toxins building up in her body. These ulcers make eating painful for her. Eventually, without treatment, she'll fall into a coma.

Other Symptoms of Kidney Failure

As your cat's kidneys fail, she'll become dehydrated. Dehydration will lead to painful constipation and her coat will become very dry. You may notice an unpleasant odor to her breath, similar to ammonia, which indicates the buildup of toxins in her body. Because the kidneys help to control blood pressure, your cat might experience high blood pressure if they don't function properly. Very high blood pressure can lead to blindness. Your feline friend could become anemic due to kidney failure, which will cause her gums to become pale. After exercise, you'll notice that your cat tires much more easily than usual. She may have seizures and have trouble walking properly.

The Importance of Vet Care

It's likely that by the time your cat shows symptoms of kidney failure, as much as 75 percent of her kidney function has been compromised, according to the Veterinary Medical Clinic website. This is why it's so important to get your cat to the vet right away if you notice any symptoms of kidney failure. Your vet can diagnose her with kidney failure through urine and blood tests. Although kidney failure can't be cured, once your vet diagnoses it, he will develop a treatment plan to keep your kitty's kidneys functioning as well as possible. Treatment including a special diet and the administration of intravenous fluids can help to slow the progression of this degenerative condition.

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