(Old age kidney disease)
The most common cause of death in older cats is progressive failure
of the kidney tubules. Early signs of this disease, which generally
effect cats older than 12 years, are increased water consumption
and weight loss. The coat may become dull and you may notice increased
“finickiness” with the cats eating. As the disease progresses
water consumption escalates and the cat becomes progressively more
lethargic. Muscle wasting, weakness and anemia mark the end stage
of kidney failure. Because many of the signs, early in the disease,
are subtle we recommend that all cats 12 years and older be examined,
at least, every six months.
Diagnosis of kidney disease is made via physical exam, urine analysis
and a complete set of blood tests. Occasionally, ultrasound, xray
or biopsy are useful auxiliary tests.
The treatment for kidney disease always involves changing the cat
to a low protein diet, such as k/d by Hills (available through veterinarians
only.) The rationale for this is that the waste products of protein
metabolism are what accumulates (uremia) and make the cat feel poorly
and also further damage the kidney tubules.
We may treat your cat with antibiotics if we think bacterial infection
may be compromising the old kidneys. Often we use a drug called
Winstrol (an anabolic steroid) to control muscle wasting and anemia.
Winstrol may also help to stabilize the kidney tubules. Often vitamins
are a useful adjunct.
If the disease is severe we may have to hospitalize your cat for
3-5 days for fluid therapy and other injectable medications. Once
past this crisis, we may encourage you to administer fluids under
your cats skin at home.
This subcutaneous (sub Q) treatment is often very useful to keep
the cat eating and happy when kidney function is marginal. This
is a crude form of dialysis. It is not painful for the cat and usually
is easily mastered. We will show you how to do it and it might feel
awkward at first, but soon you will realize it’s easier then
Your cat may need to be rechecked frequently in the beginning of
the treatment so that we can tailor the treatment to your cat's
Some cats can live years with moderate kidney impairment. This
is a common and serious disease and in some cats it advances quickly
and can kill in short order. However, some cats respond well to
treatment. Untreated kidney disease has a mean survival time of
4-6 months. Treated, it lengthens to 10-14 months. If you are lucky
the cat could still be alive 3 years after treatment. We rarely
know which cats will respond so well - so it’s always worth