Some things just weren’t designed to last forever. No, I’m not talking about your dishwasher! I’m referring to the kidneys of our companion animals and, more specifically, our feline friends. While age-related kidney disease does occur in dogs, cats are much more commonly affected. Chronic renal failure (CRF) is one of the most common diseases in cats over 10 years of age. Signs of early disease can often be picked up in routine bloodwork. For this reason, many veterinarians recommend routine blood screenings every year once a cat reaches the age of eight. These routine tests are important because catching the disease early leads to the most successful long-term treatment. Signs you would see at home are, most commonly, increased volumes of urine in the litter box (or elsewhere) and increased thirst. In fact, increased thirst is one of the more noticeable signs that something may be wrong. You may also notice weight loss, vomiting, lethargy and abnormal behavior, like hiding.
The silver lining is that with regular monitoring by your vet and a sharp eye at home, CRF that is caught early can be successfully treated for many years. Treatment focuses on a change in diet, controlling any contributing factors (like hyperthyroidism or high blood pressure) and fluid replacement therapy (which can often be performed at home). Some facilities are also offering treatments akin to those available for humans, like kidney transplants and dialysis. Your veterinarian can help to let you know what is available and whether she feels it would be suitable for your pet.