Kidney Disease in Cats: General Information, Symptoms, & Treatment

Kidney Disease in Cats: General Information, Symptoms, & Treatment

Cats will keep you in stitches with their odd behavior, whether they’re chasing a toilet paper roll across the floor (while ignoring all the expensive toys you bought) or waiting under the bed to attack your ankles as you pass.  As an animal lover and a responsible pet owner, you naturally want to do all you can to keep your cat happy, healthy, and full of mischief as long as possible.

Unfortunately, your feline friends may be susceptible to a number of ailments, including kidney diseases.  In fact, kidney disease in cats is not at all uncommon, affecting an estimated 1 in 3 cats, and it has been classified as the leading cause of suffering and death in cats.  While it is more common in older felines, even kittens could suffer from kidney disease.  Even worse, it’s not always easy to spot warning signs until the condition is advanced.

What can you do to prevent kidney disease in cats or spot it early in order to get a treatment plan in place as soon as possible?  Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms, treatments, and prognosis for cats suffering from kidney diseases.

What is Kidney Disease in Cats?

There are a couple of different types of kidney disease in cats, namely acute kidney failure and chronic kidney disease.  Both can be serious and even life threatening if not treated.

Acute renal failure, as you may have guessed, occurs when the kidneys simply stop functioning, and this can develop in a very short period of time, such as just a few days or weeks.  Often, acute renal failure can be attributed to a trigger event, such as trauma, poisoning, kidney infection, blockages (as in the urethra), extreme dehydration, and so on.

Chronic kidney problems take longer to develop and are often more difficult to identify and treat.  The cause of chronic kidney disease isn’t always clear, but it may be related to kidney infections or blockages, as well as other health problems like hypertension, thyroid issues, poor dental health or oral disease, or cancer, just for example.

Cats suffering from kidney disease will eventually experience a buildup of waste products in the bloodstream that would normally be filtered out.  Without treatment, this can cause discomfort, pain, and in time, death, so you definitely want to catch such problems and treat them as soon as possible.

Signs and Symptoms

Spotting kidney disease in cats isn’t always easy, especially with chronic kidney problems, but there are certain warning signs you can watch for.  One of the most common signs of kidney disease is increased thirst and urination.  Over time, appetite may wane and your cat may start to lose weight and suffer from lethargy.

As the condition worsens, vomiting and diarrhea may occur, or alternately, constipation.  Your cat’s coat might become dull, gums may turn pale pink or whitish, and breath can be foul.  In truth, if your cat is experiencing any of these symptoms, you’ll probably want to visit the vet for an exam and testing anyway, since some of the symptoms could be related to other serious disorders, if not kidney disease.

Treatment Options

If you suspect kidney disease, either acute or chronic, your vet will perform testing, including physical examination, ultrasound, x-rays, blood tests, urinalysis, and so on to diagnose the condition.  Acute renal failure is often reversible when caught and treated early.  Although chronic kidney disease can be more difficult to treat, you can manage your cat’s health with proper diet, supplements, medication, and treatment of any associated diseases like hypertension.

With early detection and proper care, your cat may enjoy better health and few symptoms for years, but not all cats respond to treatment in the same way, so the prognosis will depend largely on your pet and the particular conditions contributing to kidney disease.


Central Texas Animal Hospital provides a variety of veterinary services for cats in the Pflugerville/Austin-Round Rock area including vaccinationsparasite preventiondental careweight managementspaying and neutering, and more. Call us at 512-251-BARK today to learn more!