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Chronic renal insufficiency (CRI or ‘kidney
failure’) is a common complaint in cats; in fact it is estimated
that more than half of all cats over 10 years of age have
some degree of CRI. Many cats can live long, happy years after
being diagnosed with CRI
The kidneys are made up of hundreds
of little pumps (‘nephrons’), whose role is to filter the blood,
maintain water balance, and remove waste products. Cats have many
less nephrons than most other animals, and perhaps this is one of
the reasons they get kidney problems more often. In CRI, the
kidneys aren’t doing their job as effectively as they should be.
This means there is a build up of waste products in the blood and
that the urine is more dilute. CRI is diagnosed by blood and
urine tests together- testing for high levels of some of the
waste products in the blood, mainly urea and creatinine, along with
urine that is inappropriately dilute.
Another common feature of CRI is the
presence of high blood pressure (hypertension). Hypertension
can in turn lead to more damage to the kidneys, as well as other
organs like the brain and eyes. It is recommended to test blood
pressure once CRI has been diagnosed, and regularly thereafter.
High blood pressure can usually be treated very successfully with
once daily medication.
The underlying cause of CRI is
commonly unidentified, and the condition is often slowly
progressive. Sometimes, the veterinarian may recommend looking
further into the cause of the kidney disease by performing further
tests such as taking an X-ray or ultrasound of the kidneys.
Once diagnosed, a number of things
can be done to help make your cat’s life as comfortable and healthy
as possible. The provision of fresh and plentiful water, a
change to a diet specially formulated for CRI (see ‘Dietary
Management of Renal Disease’ notes) and regular checks with the vet
will all help in this aim.
The regular checks (where
blood and urine samples are taken and the blood pressure is tested),
test for levels of urea and creatinine, phosphate (which increases
as there is less than 10% of the kidney working), electrolytes
(Potassium, Sodium, Chloride), and the haematocrit as a general
measure of anaemia. If any of these levels change, we can take
positive action (for example it is not uncommon for potassium levels
to decrease, and we can then give supplements, which will give your
cat more energy and make them feel better).
Ultimately, the aim of diagnosing and
monitoring CRI is to help keep your cat happier and healthier for
longer; to not only increase the quantity but the quality
of their life.
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