Acute and Chronic Feline Kidney Failure – How Long Can Your Cat Live?
ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS OF THE HIGHLY COMPLEX KIDNEYS
The kidney is a remarkable organ that provides these vital functions:
- Producing and concentrating urine, which is made up of waste, toxins, and extra fluid that the body doesn’t need.
- Filtering waste products and extra water from the blood so that they can be excreted in the urine. This process eliminates toxins from the body and maintains a proper level of hydration.
- Producing erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the bone marrow to create new red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body.
- Regulating electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium, phosphorous, and calcium) in the body.
- Producing renin, an enzyme that controls the body’s blood pressure.
Once the kidneys are damaged, they have very limited ability to recover.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict life expectancy with malfunctioning kidneys since each case is unique; however, there is a difference in life expectancy with regards to managed and unmanaged kidney failure. Discussing immediate or ongoing treatment options (whichever is relevant) with your veterinarian is therefore very important.
ACUTE KIDNEY INJURY (AKI) VERSUS CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE (CKD)
There are two types of kidney failure that can affect cats. Both need attention immediately.
Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), previously called acute renal failure
- Definition: Sudden, serious kidney failure
- Cause: Ingesting something that’s toxic for cats (e.g. lilies or antifreeze) can trigger AKI
- Treatment: Can include medications and IV fluids which may be enough to recover lost kidney function
- Prognosis: Can range from mild to fatal
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), previously called chronic renal failure
- Definition: Gradual, ongoing loss of kidney function that ends in fatal kidney failure
- Cause: In many cases, it remains unknown, but many factors can lead to CKD
- Treatment: It’s all about treating and managing the disease since it cannot be cured
- Prognosis: CKD is incurable; lost kidney function can never be recovered
ACUTE KIDNEY INJURY (AKI) VERSUS CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE LIFE EXPECTANCY
Prognosis differs greatly from cat to cat.
Acute Kidney Injury (AKI)
Lots of factors can influence the likely course of AKI such as:
- When it was discovered because AKI can be fatal in a matter of hours
- Aggressiveness/promptness of treatment
The first 24 to 48 hours are crucial. In many cases, AKI ends in fatality.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
Lots of factors can influence the likely course of CKD such as:
- Cause, if it can be determined
- How early diagnosis is made
- The stage of the disease
- General health
Although there’s no cure, as previously mentioned, prognosis for CKD in the early stages can be favorable.
CONSISTENCY OF TREATMENT AND MANAGEMENT OF CKD MAY PROLONG LIVES OF CATS
With CKD, early detection and appropriate treatment can greatly improve quality of life and life expectancy. The sooner treatment starts, the longer the life expectancy. Some cats – usually those that receive appropriate, ongoing treatment – live for years after being diagnosed.
The aim of therapy is to slow the progression of kidney disease. Therapy may include the following:
- Minimizing the buildup of toxic waste products in the bloodstream
- Addressing disturbances in electrolyte concentration
- Providing adequate hydration
- Supporting appropriate nutrition
- Controlling blood pressure
There is no cure for CKD; however, treatment and management of symptoms can improve and prolong the lives of cats affected with kidney disease.