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Veterinarians Recommend Kidney Check-ups and Care for Cats

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Angell Veterinarians: Prioritize Kidney Check-ups for Cats


BOSTON, May 6, 2013 – Seven-year-old “Hank,” a chunky and sweet-natured gray tabby cat, was just discharged from Angell Animal Medical Center having undergone successful treatment to slow his renal disease which, if left unchecked, would have led to kidney failure and death.  Hank is one of the lucky ones; Angell veterinarians diagnose hundreds of cases of renal disease every year, with many patients too far gone to be saved.  His story is a reminder for pet owners to prioritize kidney checkups this spring.

Hank was admitted to the animal ER on April 28 when a sudden bout of lethargy and appetite loss led his concerned owners to take action.  And that quick thinking made all the difference for Hank.

Upon hearing an overview of Hank’s symptoms Dr. Wayne ordered blood and urine samples, which showed elevated levels of urea and creatinine—one of the surest signs of renal disease.  Hank was also suffering from an acute kidney infection.  He was placed on antibiotics to treat the infection and IV fluids to flush out toxins that would normally have been filtered by his kidneys.

Renal Disease 101

Renal disease, sometimes referred to as kidney disease, is one of the most common conditions affecting older cats. The disease occurs when the kidneys can no longer adequately filter and remove waste products from the blood. The cases the specific cause of renal disease often cannot be pinpointed, however known causes include kidney tumors, bacterial infections and damage to kidneys by environmental toxins.  In most cases the disease gets worse over time, even though the rate of progression varies widely between individuals.  “Unfortunately the disease cannot be reversed,” said Dr. Annie Wayne of Angell Animal Medical Center.  “But it can be treated and its effects can be slowed down.  The key is early diagnosis and proactive management of the condition.”

Living with Renal Disease

Optimal management of renal disease typically requires proactive monitoring of blood pressure, blood and urine to identify treatable complications as they arise (e.g., anemia, low potassium, urinary infections and hypertension).  This is the path that Hank will be traveling to ensure his health can be continuously reassessed.  “It’s important to realize that this is not a death sentence for cats,” said Dr. Wayne.  “Early detection is essential so that the disease can be monitored and its progression can be slowed to the extent possible.  Annual exams that include routine blood work, especially in older cats, are important to help identify the disease while still in its early stage.”

Caring for Cats with Renal Disease

Once renal disease begins there is no way to reverse it.  But following these recommendations may help to slow the disease and significantly increase our pets’ quality of life.

  • Make sure cats have plenty of fresh water to drink.  Cats with renal disease often become dehydrated so encouraging them to drink more is key to staying healthy.  Because cats get most of their water from the food they eat, cats with renal disease should be fed canned food vs. kibble.
  • Reduce the amount of protein in the diet.  Many of the toxic substances in the blood of cats with renal disease are a result of protein breakdown, so feeding a low-protein diet will help minimize this.  However, because too little protein can be very dangerous for cats, it’s important for cat owners to consult with their veterinarian when making decisions about diet.  If a cat is diagnosed with chronic renal disease, a veterinarian may prescribe a prescription diet that is designed to optimize kidney health.
  •  Reduce phosphate content.  Phosphate is another very common substance that is more harmful to cats with renal disease and as such, reducing the amount of this ingredient is highly recommended.  There are now many foods on the market specifically designed to reduce phosphate, making it much easier for pet owners to do.
  • Regular check-ups.  It’s very important for cats with renal disease to see their veterinarian regularly—perhaps two times per year—so that any new symptoms can be addressed, and the overall progression of the disease can be monitored.


Angell Animal Medical Center cares for more than 50,000 animals a year and is one of the most acclaimed veterinary practices in the country. Angell has 67 doctors and an experienced support staff who work as a team to ensure high quality general wellness, emergency and specialty care. With 31 board-certified specialists and technology that includes an MRI specifically designed for animals, Angell is committed to providing a broad range of specialized expertise and experience, but delivers this care with one-on-one compassion that animals and their owners deserve. Angell is open for emergencies 24 hours of every day of the year, and offers night and weekend appointments with our specialty services.

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