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Chronic Renal (Kidney) Failure PDF Print E-mail

Chronic renal failure is primarily a disease of older animals but can occur at any age. Poor kidney function leads to an accumulation of nitrogenous waste products in the blood and an inability to concentrate urine and conserve body fluid. Most renal failures occur because of old age, but they can also be caused by exposure to certain toxins or drugs, cancer, infection, urinary tract obstructions, hi blood calcium, unregulated diabetes, and poor genetics.

Symptoms vary with the severity and duration of disease. Most affected animals drink and urinate excessively. They may also display signs of lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, constipation, malodorous breath, oral and gastrointestinal ulcers, anemia, and even blindness from high blood pressure.

A diagnosis is made based on a complete blood count, chemistry profile, and urinalysis. Abnormalities may include elevated BUN, CREA, AMYL, and phosphorous values, low red blood cell count, and non-concentrated urine.

 In-patient treatment involves correcting dehydration and electrolyte imbalances with intravenous fluids, as well as treating any underlying cause. Medication is also administered to treat nausea.

Outpatient treatment includes prescription kidney diets (Hills k/d) with proper levels of protein, phosphorous, and sodium. Free access to plenty of fresh water is very important. Antacids (Pepcid, Tagamet) and anti-nausea medications may be required. Many animals also require supplemental subcutaneous fluid therapy at home. Some animals may take months or even years to progress to terminal renal failure.

Kidney transplantation is available for cats at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia. Not all cats are considered appropriate candidates. In 2001, cost was approximately $6,000 with varying success rate and length of hospitalization. Adoption of the kidney donor cat is required.