Albuquerque Journal Article – Chronic Kidney Failure is Manageable

kidney failure in cats

Older Cats need Special Care


I have a 17 year old long haired female cat that was diagnosed with chronic renal failure two years ago. She has received 100 ml subcutaneous fluids twice a week. She has dropped from 9.5lbs to 7.4lbs. In the last week I have been finding clumps of her hair on the floor and mats in her coat. Should I take this as a sign of end stage renal failure or just seasonal shedding and mats?


Dr. Nichol:

You must have taken really good care of your kitty for her to have reached 17. The subcutaneous fluids (injected under the skin) you have given her have made these last two years possible. But her weight loss and failure to groom tell me that her condition is changing.

Cats with advanced kidney disease, stage 3 or stage 4, do better with daily subcutaneous fluids. This rinses more water through their kidneys, reducing the accumulation of toxic waste products in their blood. Your cat should feel better as her remaining kidney tissue is protected.

As we care for our pets in their later years they seem to get more dear to us. But there are realities that must be addressed head-on. Kidney failure is ubiquitous in senior cats; all of them are affected. As these vital organs gradually lose function they raise blood pressure, which initially serves them well but ultimately causes further damage. Medication to control your cat’s hypertension will be essential for her further survival. A special low sodium, low protein diet will also make a difference. Other treatments may be necessary to help your girl feel better and share more good time with you.

Your kitty’s poor hair coat also worries me. Severe kidney failure can result in painful ulcers in the mouth that make it uncomfortable for a cat to eat and care for herself. Dental infections and loose teeth, common in older cats, would also reduce self-grooming.

I urge you to have your special cat thoroughly examined. Be sure to have her blood pressure measured and a fasting blood profile submitted, along with a first-morning urine sample. This kitty means a lot to you. Do whatever it takes.


Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.