We now know the difference between various kinds of kidney failure and a bit about the kidney in general, so let’s look at how we can best avoid all this nasty business in the first place. Acute kidney failure is far more preventable than chronic kidney failure, and can occasionally develop into chronic kidney failure if not treated in time. This makes the causes of acute kidney failure a good place to start.
Cat parents can best prevent acute kidney failure by being aware of the most common preventable causes. This first one of which is a no-brainer- limit your cat’s exposure to toxic substances. This seems obvious, but what’s toxic to cats is a little less clear. The most common substances to be aware of include:
- Ethylene glycol antifreeze- It’s commonly used in cars, and you may have some in your garage or house. If you do and have cats, I would recommend switching over to a propylene glycol versions, which are far less toxic.
- Any kind of medication- cats systems are much smaller than ours, and it takes much smaller amounts of a drug for them to overdose. You should also never administer human medications, to felines without calling the veterinarian first.
- Lilies- Pull lilies out of any flower arrangement entering the house, as all portions of the plant are extremely toxic to cat kidneys.
- The outdoors– if possible, keep your cat indoors when you can. When allowed outside cats are exposed to all manner of environments out of your control. Cats also have a massive impact on the native fauna, and keeping them indoors helps minimise this effect.
There is also a possibility that your cat has a genetic predisposition for kidney failure like it was suspected that Chelsea and Tiger did. Abyssinians and Persians are thought to have a familial predisposition to developing kidney disease, so if you owe either of those breeds it pays to be extra vigilant.
Chronic kidney failure is a bit of a different beast. In most cases, the cause of chronic kidney disease is unknown. There is a suspected link between chronic kidney failure and high sulphur foods, but that’s yet to be proven. Other conditions such as birth defects affecting the kidneys, trauma, hypokalemia (low blood potassium), and hypercalcaemia (high blood calcium) may also cause CKD, but work is still going on to discover the underlying cause of most cases of this disease. There is very little cat parents can do to prevent cats developing chronic kidney failure.
If an underlying cause can be identified, in some cases this may be treatable and so the progression of the condition may be halted. In most cases though, treatment is aimed at management of the disease and complications that arise from it.
Speaking of which, an essential part of treating kidney failure is early detection. If you own any kind of pet, especially a cat or dog, you should take them to the vet twice a year. Often kidney failure in its initial stages doesn’t have any outward signs and is only detectable through a blood work screening. Cases of kidney failure caught early as part of wellness screening have the best chance for long-term health because intervention takes place very early in the disease process.
In saying that, there are some signs to watch out for. These include:
- Changes in drinking habits
- Changes is litter box visits
- Weight loss
- Bad breath
Funnily enough, these are also symptoms of diabetes in cats, which Tiger also has. Never be afraid to double check with your vet that your cat is okay. It’s far better to make an unnecessary trip to the vet than miss detecting the early signs of disease. In both diabetes and kidney failure, early intervention leads to longer life.
I can say from experience that kidney failure is scary, and at times down right heart breaking. It’s not the be all and end all though. Vigilance pays off. Persistence pays off. A little bit of hope pays off. Many of the pets that have been diagnosed with kidney failure have lived many happy years through the care of their owners and veterinarians. Treat every day as a gift.