Chronic Kidney Disease in Cats

What is it and what are the important things to know?

  • It is a persistent loss of kidney function over time
  • It takes at least 75% loss of kidney function before we see signs
  • Damage to kidneys is irreversible
  • Early detection important in order to provide good quality of life
  • Similar symptoms to diabetes and hyperthyroidism

What do the kidneys do?

  • Filter blood and make urine (excrete waste and extra fluid from the body)

What are the symptoms I will see?

  • Lethargic (lack of energy, sleeping more, weakness)
  • Weight-loss
  • Increase in drinking and urination
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Bad breath/sore mouth

What is happening internally?

  • High blood pressure
  • Increase of protein in urine
  • Increase of phosphorus in blood
  • Low red blood cell levels
  • Potassium imbalance (starts out low, then goes high)
  • Metabolic acidosis (body acid level too high; the blood pH is too low)
  • Dehydration
  • Inability to filter toxins/toxin elevation

What causes it/what are some predispositions?

  • Cats age 7 or older are considered high risk
  • Diets high in phosphorus and/or protein
  • Specific breeds (Persians, Himalayans, other exotic long-haired breeds)
  • Toxicity (disinfectants, antifreeze, lead paint, some human medications)

How is it diagnosed and what are the tests that are done?

Blood tests

  • Blood urea nitrogen and creatinine
  • Electrolytes (sodium and potassium)
  • Red blood cell count
  • Protein level

Urine tests

  • Concentration of urine
  • pH and protein levels
  • Presence of red blood cells or other cells
  • Culture for bacteria

Is there treatment, and what does it do?

1. Regular administration of subcutaneous or intravenous fluids
2. Kidney-specific diets and medication

Treatments are used to:

  • Controls blood pressure
  • Decreases presence of protein in urine
  • Decreases phosphate levels
  • Increases production of red blood cells
  • Supplements potassium and antioxidants
  • Helps the kidneys to filter toxins and regulate toxin levels


Written by Tamara Tupper, RVT

Dartmouth Vet Hospital took wonderful care of my first dog. Maggie had some behavioural issues, all the staff were amazing…

Jaime Aitken

My wife brought our puppy in this morning. We were extremely worried. They saw him very quickly, were kind, compassionate…

Dave Snow

We’ve been with Dartmouth vet a long time! My boy is super nervous but always has a good time here.…

Marcy Lecky-nickerson

Dr. O’Leary was absolutely amazing as was Amanda . Dr. O’Leary took care of any concerns and questions, explained what…

Nyssa G.

This is the most patient and caring staff I have ever encountered. I have been with them for almost 10…

Livia Peyton


The Risks of Being an Outdoor Cat

Cats are curious creatures who love to roam and explore. The outside world is full of birds to hunt, trees to climb and sun patches to roll in - so why doesn’t everyone let their cat go outside?

Read More
See All Articles