Identifying Chronic Kidney Disease in Your Pets

This is a blog I actually wish I never had to write. I wish I had never needed to know the signs, symptoms and treatments for Chronic Kidney Disease for my cat. But here we are after a battle that was longer than I had known. This is my sweetie pie cat Leonidas. Last week he was in stage 4 Kidney Disease that crept up on us unknowingly and made itself present fast and hard.

Some months ago, Leonidas had bad breath. He’s getting older, so I assumed it was age related. Nothing else in his personality had changed, he was the same normal demanding sweetie as always. He likes to snuggle, and yell at us if he’s not getting his way. Then an awful turn happened. A few weeks ago I picked him up and he seemed lighter and a little fussier. Then in the next amount of time he dropped a lot of weight but personality wise seemed the same. I took him to the vet last week to see if he was struggling with anxiety or something – and we ran some urine and blood tests.

He has always been an adventurous cat, so he didn’t mind going to the vet. We also had some xrays done and his left kidney was swollen but when the urine and blood tests came back it showed no infection but high BUN Levels – (blood urea nitrogen levels may indicate a wide range of health problems. This is because the kidneys and liver are involved in a wide range of body functions. According to the Medical Council of Canada, normal blood urea nitrogen levels range between 7 and 22 milligrams per deciliter.) and high Creatinine levels (A study of 211 cats with chronic kidney disease, performed at The AMC, showed IRIS stage based only on creatinine levels in the blood correlated with the cat’s longevity. Cats diagnosed with Stage IIb had a creatinine >2.3 mg/dl, stage III greater than 2.8 mg/dl and stage IV greater than 5 mg/dl.) His levels were BUN – 73 and Creatinine was 5.5. What does that mean? STAGE 4 Kidney Disease.

I cried til my eyes were swollen shut.

At this point we had decisions. The vet recommended we put him on an IV drip for at least 48 hours to see if we could get the levels to drop. If we could it would mean him moving into stage 2 or 3, and we could do some things at home to make him feel better which meant a longer life for Leonidas. So that’s what we did. He spent 48 hours getting an iv drip and his levels went down dramatically and he gained back a little weight. After 48 hours they gave me a tutorial on how to give a subcutaneous injection. Subcutaneous means under the skin.

In this type of injection, a short needle is used to inject a drug into the tissue layer between the skin and the muscle. I hated the thought of having to prick Leonidas, but when they did it at the vets he was really ok with it. CKD causes extreme dehydration so giving him 150 cc’s of fluid 3 times a week makes him feel TONS BETTER. It really only takes 5 minutes and with just 3 times a week totally manageable. A little tip – keep a few needles at a time in the freezer. When the needle is cold it is easier to inject. You just pull up some of the skin on his back and inject in the little tent area then run the iv. He is also on Pepcid to help and stomach issues and he takes an appetite stimulant every 3 days. He really doesn’t like taking those little pills but… he needs them.

So for now that is what we are doing. He is gaining a little weight back and is not hiding, he is communicating with us and walking around the house and eating and drinking some. Not as much as we would like but some is better than none. His meds are every 2 or 3 days so thankfully it’s not daily so we are able to leave the house. I sure do love my sweet boy. It is chronic, which means you cant heal it, but you can make it somewhat better.

So say a little prayer for Leonidas. We love him so much ❤️ Below I’ve listed symptoms and signs to look for in your kitty for CKD. This website HERE was SUPER helpful to me in finding answers. So much helpful information.

Signs and Symptoms

Chronic Renal Failure in Cats – From PetMD

*If you suspect your cat may be going through CKD get to the vet. No advice on the internet should substitute a vet’s professional advice.

Sixteen out of every 1,000 cats that are examined suffer from chronic renal disease. And while cats of any age can be diagnosed with the kidney disease, it is more commonly seen in older cats.

Failure of the kidney — which among other things regulates blood pressure, blood sugar, blood volume, water composition in the blood, and pH levels, and produces red blood cells and certain hormones — can take so place so slowly, that by the time the symptoms have become obvious, it may be too late to treat the condition effectively. Often, the kidney will find ways to compensate as it loses functionality over the course of months, or even years.

While chronic renal failure cannot be reversed or cured, treatment and management aimed at reducing the contributing factors and symptoms can slow its progression.

Chronic renal failure can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects dogs, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms often occur gradually over an extended period. In addition, symptoms may vary and not all of these listed below will be seen in every cat:

  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Increased thirst
  • Acute blindness
  • Seizures and comas
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • An increase in the frequency and amount of urination
  • Bad Breath


Causes of kidney failure can include kidney disease, urinary blockage (obstruction of the urinary tract or of the ureters), certain prescription medications, lymphoma, diabetes mellitus, and genetic (hereditary) factors.

Owners of Abyssinian or Persian cats should be especially aware of this condition, as these two breeds are prone to chronic renal failure.


Your cat will undergo a complete blood profile, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. Cats with chronic renal failure may have anemia, abnormal electrolyte levels, and elevated blood pressure. The levels of certain protein enzymes and chemicals such as creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) will also be high.

Another good indicator of chronic renal failure is urine that is neither concentrated or dilute, thus indicating the kidney’s inability to process the urine correctly. X-ray or ultrasound imaging may also be used to observe the size and shape of the cat’s kidney(s) to see if there are any visibly noticeable abnormalities. Often, chronic renal failure causes kidneys to become abnormally small.


Cats suffering from long-term kidney failure will often undergo fluid therapy to assist with depleted body fluid levels (dehydration). Dietary protein is sometimes restricted, since it can further compound the problem.

Although there is no cure for chronic renal failure, there are numerous steps that can be taken to minimize the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. For instance, feeding your cat a specially formulated kidney diet, or other diet low in protein, phosphorus, calcium, and sodium, is usually very helpful. These specially formulated foods will usually have a higher level of potassium and polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids), both have shown to be beneficial to the kidneys. The downside is that these foods are not flavorful.

If your cat is resistant to its new diet, small amounts of tuna juice, chicken stock, or other flavor enhancers can be used with guidance from your veterinarian.

Maintaining hydration is critical. You will need to ensure your cat always has an adequate amount of clean water to drink. If your cat has been diagnosed with dehydration, supplemental fluids may be given intravenously or under the skin (subcutaneously).

Phosphorus binders and vitamin D supplements are often given to cats with chronic renal failure in an attempt to improve calcium and phosphorus balance, and to reduce some of the secondary effects of renal failure. H-2 receptor blockers, or other medications to treat the secondary gastric ulcers and gastritis that develops, can be helpful in increasing a cat’s appetite. Depending on the symptoms and conditions, other medications that may be considered include:

  • Anti-hypertensives to decrease blood pressure
  • Enalapril to block angiotensin, a natural blood pressure elevator
  • Erythropoietin to stimulate the production of red blood cells, thus increasing oxygen in the tissues

Living and Management

Chronic renal failure is a progressive disease. Cats experiencing this disease should be monitored on an ongoing basis, with frequent check-ups to ensure that it is not necessary to make changes to the prescribed medications or diet.

Your cat’s prognosis will depend on the severity of the disease and its stages of progression, but a few months, or a few years of stability may be expected, with the proper treatment. The best way to manage this disease is to follow through with the treatments your veterinarian prescribes.

Pet owners are advised not to breed cats that have developed chronic kidney disease.


There are currently no known methods for preventing kidney disease.

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