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|CHRONIC RENAL (KIDNEY) DISEASE
A HIDDEN CONCERN
|outlook for health. Many health concerns arise because we notice shifts in
behavior, appearance, and activity levels. One condition associated with
aging and cats is so inconspicuous that once the physical signs become
apparent, the disease is already quite advanced. Chronic Renal Disease or
‘Failure’ is frequently seen in aging cats. It results in a gradual decrease in
the functioning of the kidneys.
What do the Kidneys do?
The primary functions of the kidneys are multi-fold; they filter waste
products from the body, regulate electrolytes such as potassium and
phosphorous, produce erythropoietin which stimulates the bone marrow to
produce red blood cells, they produce urine, and they produce an enzyme
which serves to regulate blood pressure. Once this loss of function begins it
is not reversible, and other vital organs are affected as well as the way your
cat feels in general.
Signs of CRD/F can be very subtle at first- especially with a species that
relies on appearing healthy for its survival. Watch for increased thirst and
urination, vomiting and signs of nausea, lethargy or depression, poor hair
coat, loss of appetite, lingering over the water bowl, eating cat litter,
constipation, a strong ammonia-like odor to the breath, and changes in
vision and hearing.
CRD/F is diagnosed through simple lab work run by your veterinarian’s
office. Changes in the kidneys’ ability to concentrate urine and flush out
waste are one of the earliest means of detecting the disease and will be
assessed in a urinalysis. Blood tests will look for increases in Blood Urea
Nitrogen and Creatinine to determine whether there is waste ‘build-up’ in
the blood, and any changes in electrolyte levels and other values will
measure some of the affects of function loss. Blood pressure will also be
monitored as well as any changes noted from examination of the eyes.
There is no cure for CRD/F, but once it is diagnosed there are a number of
actions you can take to help slow its progression. Dietary management,
supplements, medication, and fluid therapy are all options that your
veterinarian may discuss with you.
The best way to catch CRD/F is when it is in its most early stages by making
regular visits to your veterinarian for examinations and lab work so that
subtle changes can be detected and monitored over time. Once a year visits
may be appropriate for the younger feline, but as the years advance, more
frequent visits might be in order.
The changes that occur as cats age are complex, and signs of CRD/F can be
similar to those of different diseases. Sometimes changes in kidney
function can be masked by other diseases as well. Be certain to make those
appointments with your veterinarian and work closely together to
understand any changes as well as steps you can take to manage CRD/F.
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