Feline Kidney Failure

Kidney (renal) failure is a sudden inability of the kidneys to regulate water balance and the level of nitrogenous wastes (toxins) in the body. There are two types of this condition: acute and chronic kidney failure. Acute renal failure (ARF) can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure and death. If a cat or dog stops urinating, this is an extreme emergency that usually results in imminent death. In some cases, acute kidney failure can progress to chronic kidney failure. ARF can be caused by intoxication, exposure to harmful compounds, other diseases, degeneration of the kidney, injury and other factors. Chronic renal failure (CRF) is a slowly progressing disease that usually affects older cats over 10 years of age. The first signs are usually difficult to notice since excessive thirst and urination is not as common in cats as in dogs. As the disease progresses, you will notice excess drinking and urinating, weakness, vomiting, loss of appetite, poor coat condition, ammonialike odor to the breath, ulcerations in the mouth, pale gums due to anemia, sudden blindness caused by eye bleeding that results from high blood pressure, seizures and stiff gait. Chronic kidney failure is commonly seen in Siamese, Persian, Abyssinian, Burmese, Maine Coon, and Russian Blue cats.

Common Factors Causing Kidney Failure

  • Toxins - antifreeze, pesticides, herbicides. In case of antifreeze ingestion, treatment needs to be given early to be effective. Inducing vomiting and flushing the stomach out can be very helpful if performed within 1-2 hours of ingestion of antifreeze. Otherwise, the kidney failure progresses very rapidly and, if left untreated, results in death.
  • Blood pressure medication, aspirin and antinflammatory medications, anesthetics, anti-parasite drugs, antibiotics
  • Kidney tumors - lymphosarcoma, adenocarcinoma, lymphoma, osteosarcoma
  • Heart diseases causes poor blood supply to the kidneys and poor blood circulation which leads to the buildup of toxins in the kidneys.
  • Dehydration
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) - an inherited kidney disorder in Persian and other long haired cats
  • Parasites that are transmitted by frogs, fish and earthworms. Infected cats can have blood in the urine, difficult urinating, or urinating small amounts.
  • FeLV and FIP viral infections
  • Bacteria - signs may include fever, depression, lack of appetite, pain, excessive thirst, urination, and weight loss.

But who much water is really too much? For cats, drinking water every day is suspicious, even if it's a young cat of two or three years. Because cats evolved in dry regions, healthy cats drink little or no water by nature. The only exception to this rule is if your cat is eating only dry food (which is not recommended.) Dry food is so low in water (about 10 percent compared to 80 to 85 percent of a natural diet) that some cats are forced to drink water even though it is not natural for them.1

Feline Morbillivirus (FmoPV) is considered to be associated with kidney failure in cats. FmoPV may have a potential to cause other diseases, such as CNS disease. Feline morbillivirus infection is an increasingly diagnosed in cats worldwide (40% of domestic cats in Japan are positive for FmoPV) which is a big concern for veterinarians and cat owners. It has been shown that the virus has a potential to infect other animal species and to become a threat for other animals in the future.


  1. Dr. Pitcairn's New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. Richard H. Pitcairn, Susan Hubble Pitcairn

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