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Chronic Kidney Disease in Senior Cats

Chronic Kidney Disease in Senior Cats
by Dr Grant Hampson

Read time: 2 min

Has your cat recently been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease? Or are you worried they might have developed it?

We're here to help. In this article we'll explain what CKD is, how your cat might get it, how it's diagnosed, and how you can help your cat manage their symptoms.

CKD is one of the most common conditions that affects elderly acts, it is thought that 20-50% of cats over 15 years old have some element of CKD. Unfortunately CKD is a progressive disease, meaning it will get worse overtime. However, if managed effectively your cat can live with a good quality of life for many months.

The main job of the kidneys is to balance the fluid within the body and remove toxins from the blood, like a giant filter. In CKD there is damage to the cells within this filter preventing it from working effectively. Over time this damage becomes more and more progressive, eventually the toxins can no longer be excreted through the kidneys and they start to build up in the blood. The kidneys are also involved in maintaining your cats blood pressure, hormone production and regulating the acid levels of the body.

Illustration of the anatomy of the urinary system showing kidneys, glands, bladder and urethra

In the majority of cases we never find out why this occurs and we class this as “idiopathic CKD”. There are some recognised conditions that are associated with CKD:

  • Toxins: some toxins are associated with kidney damage and these include lilies and ethylene glycol (antifreeze).

  • Tumours: tumours can damage the cells within the kidneys.

  • Infections

  • Polycystic kidneys: An inherited condition where cysts grow within the kidneys, progressively damaging the cells.Persians are particularly affected by this disease.

Due to its progressive nature, symptoms of CKD often start subtle, and get progressively worse. As the filtering function of your cats kidneys continues to get worse, they lose their ability to concentrate the urine. This results in your cat urinating more frequently and they compensate by drinking lots more. Over time your cat may start to lose weight, become progressively lethargic and may start vomiting. The symptoms get much worse as the disease progresses.

CKD is diagnosed with a blood test and a urine sample. Once your cat has been diagnosed with CKD it is likely that your vet will perform multiple other tests to stage the CKD and they will be repeated on a regular basis to monitor the disease progression very closely.

CKD cannot be cured and the treatment involved managing the symptoms and changing your cat’s diet. There are specialised diets available from your vet that have reduced amounts of protein and phosphorus which can reduce the progression of the disease. It is also important to make sure your cat has access to fresh clean water at all times. Other medications may be required to reduce the blood pressure and control other symptoms.

The prognosis of CKD varies depending on the severity and cause of the CKD. Some cat’s can live for years if the CKD is related to ageing, but others may progress much faster. The important message is to follow your vets advice and get checked over regularly.

If you have any questions about CKD, or want to know more about how you can help your cat, contact us at

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