Feline Renal Failure: A Cat Kidney Disease
So you're the proud owner of a cat. Maybe you've had lots of cats throughout your life, or maybe this is the first one. Maybe this cat is young or maybe it is elderly. Regardless of your cat's age or how many you care for, you know that they are an unconditional source of love, friendship, and comfort.
So when you find out that your cat has renal failure, the diagnosis is devastating. Suddenly you realize that regardless of your cat's age, this is a prognosis that is grim. This is terminal and there are only so many things you can do until it's time to say goodbye.
Cats are naturally resilient to showing signs of weakness because in the wild they would be picked off by predators — being domesticated does not change this. You may never even realize how sick your cat is until the disease is in advanced stages. Because of how well cats hide an illness they are often very sick by the time an owner takes them in for medical care. That is how it all happened with my beloved Bishop, who was my friend for 15 years. Don't blame or beat yourself up for this. Giving an animal love and care for any amount of time is worth celebrating, and sadly they just don't live as long as we do.
Symptoms of Feline Renal Failure
Your beloved fur baby may have been suffering for years with RF (renal failure) before you noticed symptoms. Again, don't blame yourself for not noticing this.
Typically kidney failure is seen in elderly cats, and symptoms include
- lack of appetite
- increased thirst
- weight loss
- bad breath
- mouth ulcers
- change of mood
If your cat shows these symptoms, have them seen by your vet ASAP! The sooner you can support the kidneys the longer you can have with your pet.
How You Can Help Your Cat Stay Comfortable
There are a few options to keep your pet comfortable with this disease.
But first, please consider why you want to extend your pet's life. If your pet can eat, sleep, and use the bathroom, while still showing signs of the animal you love, it may be worth treatment. Quality of life is what should be considered first and foremost. It is not fair to extend an animals life while it is in pain or suffering. You have the control to keep your pet happy and comfortable, and sometimes the final act of love is to put the pet down and say goodbye. Luckily we do have the option of ending their suffering, unlike being able to do that with humans.
The following treatments will help keep your pet comfortable and extend their life for some time, the success of treatment will, of course, depend on how advanced your cat's renal failure is. All treatments below should be followed when financially possible. Remember; the goal of treatment is to keep your animal feeling as healthy as possible.
Treatment options include:
- subcutaneous administration of fluids at home or at the vet-this is extremely important for kidneys that are not functioning at full capacity
- Change of diet, and special diet food. Low in protein, usually only available through vet prescription
- Comfort during home care, careful monitoring of kidney function done by regular vet office visits.
- Lots of love, care, and gentleness to your beloved pet
Organ failure is extremely PAINFUL, and unfortunately, we can't always provide them with adequate pain management during the final stages of this disease.
Be Prepared to Say Goodbye
When your pet no longer acts in a way that justifies extending its life, it may be time to say goodbye. Your vet will walk you through the decision to put your animal to sleep. It's never an easy choice but is the most selfless thing you can do to a pet that is suffering from an incurable disease.
When I found out my cat Bishop was very sick, he was well into renal failure. I kept him comfortable, administered IV fluids at home, and put him on a special diet. He gave me 4 months of more joy before I decided to put him down. Organ failure can be extremely painful, and there were days where he'd have a soft growl if I even touched him. He would wet the bed (and anyone that knows cats, knows that they do not defecate where they sleep), I could no longer justify keeping him because of how much it hurt me to say goodbye.
In the end, you will always wonder and question if you did the right thing, could you have done more, but unfortunately our beloved animals just don't live as long as we do. I was thankful to know that I could end his pain and suffering even though I will always remember the endless joy and love he brought to my life. If you have ever had to put an animal down, you know that it is a very painful, heart-wrenching decision. But you MUST consider the quality of life for your friend. And give yourself time and self-care as you mourn your loss. But take comfort in knowing your pet is no longer suffering.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2012 Rebecca