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When VetEnt Vet Orla brought her senior cat Alan in for his regular check-up, she discovered that his kidney function had deteriorated.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is one of the most common conditions affecting older cats and Orla wanted to do everything possible to prevent Alan from suffering. If caught early and treated appropriately, cats with CKD can have long lives with a good quality of life.
What do kidneys do? The kidneys perform a wide variety of important roles, including:
Removing toxins from the blood
Maintaining water balance
Maintaining salt balance (and other electrolytes)
Maintaining the acid balance of the body
Maintaining normal blood pressure
What causes CKD? CKD occurs when irreversible damage to the kidneys impairs their ability to function and remove waste products from the blood.In most cases, the exact cause of CKD is unknown.
What are the signs? Signs are often very subtle and mild, but will gradually get worse over time. The most common signs are weight loss, poor appetite, vomiting, lethargy, increased thirst and increased urination. CKD cats may also be constipated due to dehydration.
How is CKD diagnosed? A diagnosis of CKD is made by collection of a blood and urine sample to look for any abnormalities. Urine may be sent to a lab to check for any signs of infection or protein loss. Sometimes other investigations such as X-rays, ultrasound may be indicated depending on individual circumstances.
CKD and high blood pressure Cats with CKD are at risk of developing high blood pressure. This can have a number of damaging effects, potentially including blindness and worsening of the CKD. Blood pressure should ideally be monitored in all cats with CKD and when found, should be treated
How is it managed?
Increased water intake and dietary modification is important in cats with CKD to improve quality of life and slow progression of disease, but a variety of other treatments may be valuable also, depending on individual needs. Sometimes multiple drug therapies may be needed, but if it is difficult to administer medications to your cat, these may need to be prioritised. Monitoring progression of kidney disease is also important through regular blood and urine tests.
What is the prognosis? The rate of progression of CKD varies considerably between individuals and appropriate support and treatment can both increase the quality of life of affected cats and potentially slow down the progression of the disease.
How is Alan? After his diagnosis, Alan had a number of tests, including a trip to Christchurch for an ultrasound to assess the extent of his CKD. One year later, and with lots of monitoring, he is doing really well on a mostly wet prescription diet, occasional subcutaneous fluids, laxatives and blood pressure medication.