Chronic kidney disease in cats

The kidneys contain millions of microscopic structures which perform a host of complex tasks that keep your cat healthy. Their primary function is to conserve water and filter out metabolic byproducts from the blood.

They also have a role in controlling blood pressure, maintaining electrolyte balances, supporting red blood cell production, and conserving protein in the body.  

Kidney function declines for many reasons, including age, inflammation, infection, or cancer.   

What are common chronic kidney disease signs in cats?

Early signs include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Unkempt haircoat

Intermediate or advanced signs include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Loss of vision
  • Bad breath or mouth ulcers

How is chronic kidney disease managed in cats? 

Once any underlying conditions are addressed, cats do surprisingly well with early to mid-stage chronic kidney disease

The first step is a prescription diet that helps the kidneys do their job more easily. At more advanced stages, supportive measures may include supplemental hydration with fluids, as well as medications to reduce nausea, stimulate appetite, reduce blood pressure, balance electrolytes, conserve protein and stimulate red blood cell production. 

Cats with chronic kidney disease need regular diagnostic testing to monitor their status and prognosis.

Thirst can be a sign of kidney disease in cats.

What is the prognosis for cats?

Most cases of chronic kidney disease are irreversible and progressive. Prognosis depends on an individual cat’s treatment response and the disease stage at the time of diagnosis. If chronic kidney disease is caught early, many cats can have a good quality of life for years. Cats at later stages require more intensive treatment and have a shorter lifespan.

Management tips for a cat with chronic kidney disease

At-home needs include:

  • A warm, comfortable place to sleep
  • Easy access to food, water, and a clean litter box
  • A palatable kidney prescription diet
  • Fluids administered under the skin, if directed by your veterinarian
  • Consistency with medications, which can be compounded into tasty treats

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately seek help from your veterinarian if your cat stops eating or urinating, cannot walk, vomits excessively, vocalises in pain and is having seizures or difficulty breathing.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your cat’s condition becomes unmanageable, or they begin losing their quality of life. 

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this progressive disease by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services, and personalised memorialisation options. Our services can even be pre-paid to help ease the financial burden at the time of your pet’s passing. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give us a call on 1800 953 619 or visit our website

This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.