I feel like I’ve got to start with a disclaimer. I’m not a biologist, or a vet, or trained in zoology. I have a degree in chemistry, which to be honest isn’t that helpful here. Alas, scientific thinking is- I’d like to think- pretty universal. So stick with me as I struggle through complex terminology and journal articles that bend my mind, while I try to break it down for you as simply and as accurately as I can.
That being said, we’re still not up to making kidneys yet. We’ll get there eventually. At the moment we’re going to explore why kidneys decide to fail when they do. You don’t need replacements if your organs still work. That would be nice.
Acute kidney failure most often occurs when a cat eats something toxic. This can be anything from household chemicals, human medications, and even lilies (pro tip: if you have cats don’t keep lilies in your house). It can also be caused by a variety of other reasons, including:
- the cat being bitten by ticks or snakes
- bacterial infections of the kidney
- Clotting disorders
- Ureteral or urethral obstruction
- Heart failure
Which is grim stuff. Lucky for us, acute kidney failure is which more straightforward to treat. It’s usually handled by keeping the cat affected on fluids to circulate the toxins as quickly as possible, for anywhere between one and four days. Cats can quite often pull through this to be happy, healthy felines.
Chronic kidney failure is a more insidious character. Chronic kidney failure involves functional kidney tissue slowly being replaced by scar tissue, which reduces the kidneys ability to function over time. It is, as a result, irreversible.
It takes a really long time for cats with chronic kidney failure to start showing visible symptoms. As a result, determining why the kidneys fail is often really hard. There are a few main causes that can often contribute though, which include:
- Birth defects
- Chronic bacterial infection of the kidneys
- High blood pressure
- Immune system diseases
- Acute kidney disease can also lead to damage that causes chronic kidney failure
Sadly, all of these things are pretty hard to avoid. There is building evidence to suggest that dry food might also contribute to the high level of kidney failure in household cats.
I know Chelsea had chronic kidney failure, and sadly, even if we had caught it earlier, there was very little we could do.
So which one almost killed Tiger? The answer is both. One of his kidneys was suffering chronic kidney failure, which is why he only has one that’s operational current. The second suffered a block in the ureter, which is one of the common causes of acute kidney failure. He never liked to make things simple.
Now we get to the take-home message: why replacement kidneys are so important!
As I’ve already said, there is little they can do for cats suffering chronic kidney failure except for making them comfortable on their way out. Which is heartbreaking. It’s also one of the lead causes of death amongst household cats. If a transplant was an option, especially for cases such as Chelsea’s, where she was only 8 years old, we could have had many more happy years with her by our side.
At the moment, we flush Tiger’s kidneys every second night with an IV drip, which helps a little bit but is really just delaying the inevitable.
So while printing cat kidneys seems like a long shot, it’s worth exploring, at any rate.