Chronic kidney disease is unfortunately a problem in cats and dogs we see all too frequently and at our Vet’s Klinic we help many pets and their owners to manage this difficult news. The kidneys are essential for filtering waste products into urine and for water and electrolyte (essential salt) balance along with the regulation of certain hormones. This article touches on the causes, diagnosis and treatment options available to you and your canine or feline friend.



Kidney disease (also known as renal disease or renal failure) comes in two forms, acute or chronic. Acute kidney disease is often due to toxins, usually accidental poisoning by ingestion of antifreeze/medications, or from diseases, such as leptospirosis (which can be vaccinated against). The symptoms will appear suddenly, over a couple of days. These can sometimes be treated, although the effects on the kidneys may not be fully reversed, depending on how quickly treatment is sought.

Chronic kidney disease (CRF) is fairly common, and mostly seen in older/senior animals, which we class as animals over 8 years of age. Chronic Kidney disease is more common in cats than dogs and is often secondary to other conditions, such as hyperthyroidism. However, it is estimated that 1 in 10 dogs will also suffer from this disease. It has a slower progression than acute kidney disease, and builds up over time. There are several possible causes, and signs are often hard to spot initially, as they are not visible until 75% of the kidney function has already been lost.

The main signs of chronic kidney disease are:

  • ·         increased drinking
  • ·         increase in urination
  • ·         decreased appetite
  • ·         weight loss
  • ·         vomiting
  • ·         lethargy

If your pet is showing any of these symptoms, you should go and see your vet.


There are many different causes for the loss of kidney function and often it is impossible to tell the original causative factor. To simplify into three categories there are causes before, in, and after the kidneys which can lead to damage to the kidneys:

  • ·         include any event decreasing or increasing the flow of blood to the kidneys such as dehydration/shock or low/high blood pressure, or certain toxins/drugs or infection. In cats, there are other factors that can lead to the development of kidney disease, such as hyperthyroidism.
  • ·         include acquired diseases such as tumours or stones which cause destruction of normal kidney tissue. Specific breeds of cat may also suffer from genetic problems that may predispose them to developing diseases that affect kidney function such as renal amyloidosis in Abyssinians or polycystic kidney disease in Persians.
  • ·         include any blockages after the kidney for example by stones or lower urinary tract disease can cause damage to the kidneys by a back-up in pressure as well as bladder infections which reach the kidneys. [insert link here to blocked cat article?] All of these processes result in varying degrees of damage to the kidneys and loss of function. This then leads to a build-up of waste products, and reduced regulation of water balance, electrolytes and certain hormones such as parathyroid hormone which is involved in calcium regulation and erythropoietin which is the hormone that stimulates red blood cell production.

Dental disease can also have an impact on the kidneys, as bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and attack the kidneys. The vet can have a look at your pet’s teeth and gums and assess if they will require a dental procedure called a scale and polish, and possible extractions of rotten teeth. However, this does have risks if the pet does already have kidney problems, as the anaesthetic and drugs used in the procedure could worsen the problem.


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