In our last two posts,
we discussed hyperthyroidism and diabetes, two common diseases senior cats sometimes face. These diseases have fairly good prognoses with ongoing monitoring and treatment.
A third disease that could cause the symptoms of drinking more water and losing weight in senior cats has a much poorer prognosis. This disease is kidney failure.
Kidney failure is the most common disease of older cats but actually begins much earlier in the cat’s life, as early as 7 years old. For this reason, it is recommended to begin routine screening for kidney disease at this age. Screening can include blood work and urine testing.
Before obvious signs of kidney failure appear, 75 percent of the kidneys are no longer able to function normally. The cat now depends on that last 25 percent of the healthy kidney tissue to pick up the slack and keep him healthy. Because kidney disease is progressive, the kidneys will eventually fail completely.
In people, kidney failure is treated with dialysis, and, when in complete failure, a kidney transplant may be performed. In cats, treatment goals are to reduce the stress of the workload of the kidneys and to improve the cat’s quality of life and hopefully extend its life. Special diets have been formulated to make kidneys work more effectively. Also, medications and fluid therapy can usually make a difference in how your cat is feeling. Although prognosis is guarded for the cat’s future with kidney failure, much can be done to improve his life.
The important part of this disease is to find it early enough to treat it. To do this, it is important to have younger cats (0-7 years) examined annually and to have senior cats (7 years or more) examined and screened at least twice a year.
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