chronic kidney disease in cats
After many years together, finding out that your cat has chronic kidney disease can be very distressing. However, it is reassuring to know that our understanding of chronic kidney disease is growing all the time and veterinary science has made important advances in treatment in recent years.
The information below will help you understand chronic kidney disease, what will happen in the future, and what you can do to help your cat.
WHAT IS THE FUNCTION OF
As with humans, the function of cats’ kidneys is to filter the blood and remove waste products. In doing so, they produce urine. This function is processed by nephrons (filtration units) located within the kidneys.
Cats are born with fewer nephrons than other species such as humans and dogs, which makes them more likely to develop kidney disease.
As cats get older, the number of functioning nephrons reduce, which is associated with kidney disease. It is therefore important that the remaining nephrons are protected once a cat has kidney disease.
WHAT IS CHRONIC
KIDNEY DISEASE (CKD)?
Chronic kidney disease is one of the most common conditions found in older cats, occurring typically in cats aged 7 and over.
CKD affects about 10% of the general cat population and up to 35% of older cats.
The disease is the result of damage to the kidneys. Kidneys are responsible for filtering and removing waste products from the blood.
The damage is often just the result of ageing, though at times a specific cause is identified. As a result, the kidneys can no longer filter the blood properly, resulting in a range of signs.
In most cases, the underlying cause of the damage is never known. Unfortunately, chronic kidney disease is irreversible and can only be managed.
Kidney disease is categorised in to four stages as shown below. As kidney function decreases due to progressive damage, the body tries to compensate for this, which can further accelerate the damage if left untreated.
DISEASE PROGRESSION IS ASSOCIATED WITH A LOSS IN THE NUMBER OF
FUNCTIONING FILTRATION UNITS (NEPHRONS)
WHAT DOES THIS
MEAN FOR MY CAT?
Chronic kidney disease is a progressive condition, but the rate of progression can vary greatly between individual cats. Some cats live many years with chronic kidney disease but there is usually a gradual worsening of the cat’s health with time.
The average life expectancy for cats decreases with disease progression, so the sooner a diagnosis has been made and appropriate treatment started, the better your vet will be able to help your cat. More so, starting treatment early helps ensure that your cat receives the full benefits of treatment and enjoys a better quality of life.