Renal Insufficiency/Renal Failure

Bedford Highway Veterinary Hospital

936 Bedford Highway
Bedford, NS B4A 3P1


What is Renal Disease?

Renal Disease is a condition in which the kidney's are not functioning adequately.  Renal problems are most commonly found in cats, although they have been known to occur in dogs as well. Like people, animals can function normally with 60-70% of their kidney tissue damaged or lost. It is only once the majority of kidney function has been lost that we start seeing signs.


How is renal disease diagnosed?

Renal disease is sometimes difficult to catch before it becomes  renal failure. Sometimes the kidneys can deteriorate very quickly so that the cat seems to go into failure within a couple short weeks. As with most diseases, early detection will help prolong your pet's life. Animals can function completely normally even with up to half of their kidney tissue damaged. They do not show obvious signs of renal problems until three quarters of their kidney function is lost.

Senior wellness tests can help catch renal insufficiency. As the kidneys' abilities to function decreases, small signs may occur which can be caught by blood or urine tests. As the kidneys lose their ability to metabolize the urea in the blood, certain values like Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) will begin to increase. This may be caught by a blood test while the cat still appears to be fairly normal. Also, the concentration of the urine will decrease, which can be found by doing a urinalysis.

Early outward signs of renal insufficiency are increased thirst, increased frequency of urination, and a decrease in appetite or occasional vomiting.

Once the kidneys have deteriorated to the point of 75% of function loss, symptoms become more visible to the owner. As well as increased thirst and frequent urination the owner may notice frequent vomiting and complete loss of appetite.

Is there a cure for renal disease?

Unfortunately, in most cases there is no cure. If the kidney tissue is damaged, there is no way to repair it. Nevertheless, with today's medicine there are ways to treat and manage this disease to improve your pet's quality of life.

How is renal disease treated?

If your pet is diagnosed with renal insufficiency or renal failure, the first thing the veterinarian will do will be to put your pet on a low protein diet. The less protein your pet ingests, the easier it will be on his/her remaining kidney tissue.  Hills, Medi-Cal and Royal Canin all make  renal diets,  so chances are good that after some trial and error you will be able to find a diet that your pet will eat.

There are also medications that can help extend and improve quality of life for pets with renal disease.  You veterinarian will discuss this with you and decide what is most appropriate.