The complexity of cats’ kidneys


CARE NEEDED Management is the key word when it comes to cats with chronic kidney disease (CKD), as this common condition is not curable.

The vet's view
Conal Finnerty

I get a lot of enquiries relating to older cats and the numerous medical problems to which they inevitably fall victim as they age. Arguably, the most common problem from which older cats suffer is chronic kidney disease (CKD).
The kidney is a very complex organ. It is involved in numerous activities in the body – from the regulation and elimination of toxins through urine production to the regulation of blood pressure, heart, brain and liver function, to name but a few. In fact, the proper functioning of the kidneys is vital to overall health and well being.
The management of CKD is also a complex problem, as there are so many variables to take into consideration with this disease, especially in cats who suffer the most from this condition.
Around 30 percent of cats over the age of ten suffer to some degree (be it clinical or sub-clinical) with CKD. It is, generally speaking, a slowly progressive disorder, and patients can survive for years – especially if diagnosed early and the proper interventions put in place.
Management is the key word when it comes to CKD, as this condition is not curable. Rather, patients and their owners can learn to live with it given the appropriate medical advice.
The goal with CKD is to improve quality of life and slow the progression of the disease. Unfortunately, older cats who have developed CKD can go on to have what are known as acute-on-chronic episodes of clinical disease, where they can have complicating lower urinary tract infections, bleeding kidneys, bouts of inappetence, lethargy, nausea and vomiting, dehydration etc.
Because CKD is a complex syndrome, there is no one fix that optimally treats all patients, and proper treatment regimes can only be established over time and with the help of regular clinical examinations, as well as blood tests and other diagnostic tests as may be needed.
Generally speaking, CKD is best managed with an appropriate kidney-friendly diet and medications to help support kidney function and medication to help alleviate the other complicating factors/problems that CKD can indirectly cause. These include dehydration, hypertension, blood in the urine, anaemia, proteinurea, hypokalemia (too-low potassium level), hyperphosphataemia (too-high phosphorus level) and other effects.
Acute episodes are likely to present with some or all of these clinical signs: high temperature, abdominal pain, possibly enlarged kidneys and dramatic changes in urine and blood profiles.
As you can see, the complex nature of chronic kidney disease demands a set of complex interventions, all with the goal of improving your moggy’s quality of life and minimising clinical signs of the condition while slowing its progression. Cats don’t really have nine lives, so let’s make sure that the one they do have is as healthy and long as it can be.

Warning for dog owners

In last month’s article, I wrote about the dangers of the toxic affects of blue-green algae blooms at this time of year. Only last week, we here at Skeldale were presented with a number of dogs who had succumbed to the toxins that this bacteria produce. The pets had all been swimming or drinking from stagnant waters in the Lough Carra and Clonbur areas.
These were completely healthy young dogs who died suddenly just minutes after visiting these waters, with devastating results for their owners. In one case, it completely destroyed a family’s holiday and the children were inconsolable.
I cannot stress loudly enough again, PLEASE do not let your pets anywhere near lakes and ponds, or slow moving waterways of any description, during the months of June, July and August. It’s just not worth the risk. — Conal

Last month’s Vet’s View, ‘Blue-green danger’, is available at

Veterinarian Conal Finnerty MRCVS practises at the Skeldale Vet Clinic in Ballinrobe and Belmullet. Follow the clinic on Facebook, or call 094 9541980 or 087 9185350 to make an appointment.