Your pet’s kidneys have many jobs. From conserving water by concentrating the urine, to stimulating red blood cell production, regulating blood pressure, balancing electrolytes and removing toxic wastes, it’s no wonder that when the kidneys start to falter, many problems can arise.
The kidneys are made up of thousands of tiny filtration units called nephrons. Once a nephron is destroyed, it cannot be replaced, so luckily, our pets are born with many more than they need. In fact, it’s not until there is a 75% reduction in function that they start to show clinical signs of kidney failure.
Early signs of renal (or kidney) failure are excessive drinking, excessive urination and weight loss, while in the later stages a pet may become lethargic and uninterested in food (many veterinarians prefer the term "insufficiency over the more dramatic "failure," because even though the kidneys are not performing up to snuff, in most cases patients can be treated for months or even years). Chronic renal insuffiency is common among geriatric cats, so getting routine bloodwork done for your elderly feline is important for spotting early signs.
If your cat has been diagnosed with chronic renal insufficiency, your vet will probably prescribe some combination of hydration and fluid therapy. Affected pets may be hospitalized initially to be given fluids intravenously, but eventually fluids can be given subcutaneously (under the skin) at home by dedicated pet parents. Other treatments that may be added as needed include prescription diets, phosphorus binders, potassium supplements, and medications to control high blood pressure or stimulate red blood cell production.