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What is Feline Chronic Renal Failure?

A Manageable Disease!

Extremely common in older cats, CRF is a serious condition evidenced by gradual, irreversible deterioration of kidney function over a period of months or years. The kidney consists of tiny funnel-shaped tubes called nephrons, which filter and reabsorb the fluids that balance the body. When an individual nephron is damaged by any cause, (aging, poison, infection, etc.) it stops functioning.

Fortunately the kidney can still function with as few as twenty-five percent of its original nephrons, as other nephrons can grow larger to "fill in the blanks."

Kidney failure occurs when the remaining functioning nephrons drop below 25%. Kidney failure creates several body dysfunctions: Toxins, such as urea and creatinine that normally are secreted as waste, build up in the blood. Other components in blood, such as phosphorus or sodium may rise or fall abnormally. Urine may contain protein that is not handled well by failing kidneys.

How is CRF Diagnosed?

CRF is diagnosed by a blood panel, which measures levels of critical blood components such as blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, and a red blood cell count. Analysis of urine will test for protein, bacteria, and blood, as well as how well the kidneys are concentrating urine.

What are the symptoms of CRF?

All but one (difficulty urinating) of the symptoms listed below can also be indicative of other disease, e.g., hyperthyroidism. In fact, hyperthyroidism may mask CRF, which points out the need for an accurate diagnosis.

Weightloss Vomiting
Excessive thirst and urination Obvious difficulty in urinating
Loss of Appetite Dull or ill-kept coat

How is CRF Treated?

Subcutaneous Fluids (Sub-Q) Severely affected cats may have to be hospitalized for rehydration, however most people can learn to administer Sub-Q at home. Additional fluids may be added to food. Learning to give your kitty Sub-Q fluids can buy you a lot more quality time together - even years.
Special Diet A low protein, low phosphorus diet.
Medication Depending on related problems, such as hypertension or anemia, your veterinary may prescribe a number of different medications. Epogen shots may be given, or oral medication for cleaning the blood of toxins released by the kidneys. Erythropoiesis Stimulating Agents
Appetite Stimulants Anorexia may be a problem, but cats often start eating again once they are sufficiently hydrated. It is important to get your CRF cat to eat something if they shun their prescription foods. Human baby food meat (NO onions), juice from packets of premium cat foods or similar enticements can be added to spice the taste of the prescribed food and to help stimulate the patient's appetite. Even "forced feeding" may be recommended with high quality canned food mixed with fluids, administered with a small syringe, if weight loss is severe.
Hemodialysis Although the equipment is expensive and unlikely to be found in your local veterinary clinic, if you are fortunate to live near a large teaching college with the facilities, hemodialysis is a possible last resort treatment.
Renavast "A New Nutritional Supplement to Help Support Cats' and Dogs' Natural Kidney Functions". Something to look into.

Managing a CRF cat can produce a roller-coaster of emotions, One of the best things you can do for your CRF cat is to try to relax, keep stress for both of you at a minimum, and enjoy your close relationship as you travel this road together.


All info is from internet sources and is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice. C.A.R.E. is not a veterinary facility. Consult a licensed veterinarian if your pet exhibits any unusual symptoms or behavior.

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