Unfortunately, kidney failure is very common in older catsand is usually a result of the natural progressive deterioration of the kidneysthat comes with age. Kidney disease can also be caused by certain bacteria,kidney stones, urinary obstructions, or exposure to toxins, such as antifreeze.

Symptoms, including increased drinking and urination, oftendo not appear until the disease has progressed quite a bit. At this point,decisions must be made as to what, if any, treatment options should be pursued,taking into account the quality of the cat’s day-to-day life. While kidneydisease is eventually fatal, many cats can live well for years with onlypartially functioning kidneys.

Because kidney disease is so prevalent in our felinefriends, all cat owners should discuss with their veterinarians things they cando to try to minimize the chances of the disease occurring in their pet. Whilethe disease is not always preventable, a good quality diet; access to clean,fresh water at all times; a low-stress lifestyle; and keeping toxic materialsout of reach of your kitty can help. Also, all cats, but especially those eightyears old or older, should receive physical examinations at least once a yearso health problems can be detected as soon as possible.

Cats that are in kidney failure go through good and badtimes. They have some days that are definitely of high quality and othersduring which they don’t feel very good.

There are two types of severe kidney disease. One isreversible and the other is not. Some older cats with kidney failure respond toheavy intravenous (IV) fluid therapy and stabilize enough to go on and livemonths or even several years with just diet changes and intermittent fluidtreatments. Other cats do not respond well to fluid therapy and their healthcontinues to decline.

You should discuss the full spectrum of treatment optionswith your veterinarian. Some options include having your cat hospitalized andgiven IV fluids, administering IV fluids to the cat on an outpatient basisseveral times weekly, administering fluid therapy at home, or engaging in no therapyat all. Another treatment that can help manage kidney failure is injecting abone marrow stimulant that helps correct the anemia associated with chronickidney disease.

The injection can be given at home under the direction ofyour veterinarian, but the cat must have a red cell level under about 25percent before this treatment can be used. The drug will help your cat makemore red blood cells, which helps him live longer and feel more energetic.Another option is kidney transplant surgery. This is expensive, and it can behard to find a veterinarian who does this. To explore this option, your bestbet would be to contact the veterinary college nearest you.

Nobody knows your cat as well as you do, and with yourveterinarian’s advice, you should feel comfortable making whatever decision youthink is in your cat’s best interest.

Copyright © 2009, American Animal Hospital Association

Reprinted with permissionfrom the American Animal Hospital Association