How to spot signs of renal disease

editorial image
Share this article
Have your say

By Vetsavers of St Thomas’ Road, Spalding

Kidney disease, in the form of chronic renal failure (CRF), is a common problem in older cats. I have seen kidney failure in cats as young as four years old, but far more frequently in much older cats.

The most noticeable symptom is an increase in water consumption and urination.

A blood test should be done if you notice these symptoms, as there are several conditions that can cause this. The increase in drinking and urinating in CRF is due to loss of the kidney’s ability to concentrate the urine.

Diagnosing renal disease

Laboratory tests are needed to definitively diagnose CRF. A blood test and a urine sample would be taken at the same time the blood is taken. These two tests will enable the vet to diagnose renal failure – I won’t blind you with veterinary science, but effectively what we are looking for is an increased level of urea and creatinine in the blood.

Causes of CRF

Long­-term feeding of an all­ dry ­food diet is suspected as a factor in chronic renal failure. Cats’ kidneys are highly efficient and adapted to life in the desert, where they would get most or all of their water from eating their prey. Cats eating dry cat food take in only half the water than cats on a canned or homemade diet.

Chronic or recurrent bladder disease may also be a factor in the development of CRF treatment. No conventional or alternative medical treatment can reverse its course, since the disease involves the loss of kidney cells and replacement by scar tissue.

The most significant problems caused by the loss of function are build­-up of blood toxins and anaemia. These can cause weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness and other signs of illness.


Cats with CRF must remain on a 100 per cent restricted protein/low phosphorus diet. There are many different brands available at variable costs. However, I would urge you to seek out a good quality renal diet.

Because water balance is so crucial, it is best to feed a high­ moisture diet to help keep the cat hydrated. Do not feed only dry food.

Feeding mostly or only canned renal food provides the moisture and calories that these cats need, in a very palatable form that most cats will happily eat.

This week’s question from Mr Hardy is short as is my reply!

Should I get my dog ID chipped? Yes, it’s free and please refer back to my previous columns and the 100 per cent good reasons to get it done.