An explanation of feline kidney disease

Feline kidney disease is a common condition which many cats develop during their twilight years. This disease can wreak havoc on a cat's health; in addition to causing electrolyte imbalances and preventing their body from filtering waste products (such as creatinine and urea), it can also interfere with the production of an enzyme known as renin, which is crucial for the proper blood pressure regulation.

What causes this condition?

There are several potential causes of feline kidney disease, including chronically high blood pressure, physical trauma to the kidneys, conditions which affect a cat's immune system, exposure to poisons and kidney stones.

What are the symptoms of feline kidney disease?

It can be quite difficult for cat owners to identify this disease whilst it is still in its early stages. However, as it progresses, they may notice that their pets lose their appetite, drink water and urinate more frequently, develop physical twitches and show signs of extreme lethargy.

How is this disease diagnosed and treated?

This disease can only be diagnosed by a veterinarian. The diagnostic process will usually involve multiple blood and urine tests. The former are used to check for unusually high levels of toxins in a cat's bloodstream.

The urine tests will help the vet to determine the pH and concentration of the cat's urine, and enable them to check for the presence of bacteria, blood cells and protein, all of which may indicate that the cat has developed kidney problems.

Unfortunately, at this point in time, there is no cure for this condition. If the aforementioned tests confirm the diagnosis of feline kidney disease, the vet will perform treatments designed to minimise the cat's symptoms. These treatments may include the provision of IV fluids (to filter toxins out of the cat's body and prevent dehydration) and medications which will reduce the production of toxins. Additionally, the vet may instruct the cat owner to feed their pet a diet which is low in protein and phosphorus.

Research is currently being conducted into the effectiveness of stem cell therapy in treating this disease. Stem cells are unspecialised and can develop into almost any type of bodily cell. They can be used to regenerate damaged tissue. Studies suggest that whilst stem cell therapy is unlikely to serve as a cure for this particular condition, it may help to partially restore kidney function, and slow the progression of the disease and thus prevent further damage to the kidneys.