What is Kidney Enlargement?
Kidney enlargement is a condition in which one or both kidneys experience inflammation, fluid retention, swelling, or an abnormal growth. These situations can cause the kidneys to grow in size. This inflammation may be caused by a variety of conditions, some of which are life-threatening. Enlargement can be a warning sign of acute or chronic kidney failure. The kidneys are necessary to filter waste and toxins from the blood stream, so any condition that impairs their function will quickly have a negative impact on other bodily functions. Certain breeds are more prone to developing kidney issues, including Siamese, Persian, Burmese, and Maine Coon. Any cat experiencing symptoms of kidney enlargement or kidney failure should be seen by a veterinary professional.
Symptoms of Kidney Enlargement in Cats
Kidney enlargement can cause a variety of symptoms, although it is possible for the kidneys to be enlarged and the cat to be asymptomatic. If the kidney is very enlarged, it may be possible to feel or see the swollen area. The symptoms associated with an enlarged kidney closely resemble symptoms of several serious medical conditions. Any cat experiencing symptoms like these should be seen by a medical professional immediately.
- Depression or apathy
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Increased urination
- Discolored urine
- Blood in vomit, urine, or feces
- Increased thirst
- Pale gums or mucous membranes
- Abdominal bloating, swelling, or mass
- Swelling around the area of one or both kidneys
- Bad breath
- Abdominal pain and sensitivity to touch
- High blood pressure
Causes of Kidney Enlargement in Cats
Kidney enlargement can be a symptom of a variety of medical conditions. The kidneys may become inflamed as a result of injury, infection, or serious conditions like cancers or poisoning. Enlargement may also be related to issues with other organs or portions of the renal system. Some of the common causes of kidney enlargement in cats and other companion animals include:
- Bacterial infection
- Parasite Infestation
- Feline leukemia virus
- Urinary tract infection
- Urinary tract obstruction
- Blood clots
- Poor blood flow through the kidneys
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Certain cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma
- Toxins, including heavy metals, solvents, and antifreeze
- Some cancer treatments
- Certain medications
- Heart disease
- Immune system diseases
- Severe dehydration
- Kidney stones
- Trauma or injury
Diagnosis of Kidney Enlargement in Cats
Diagnosing kidney enlargement can be challenging because its symptoms are similar to other conditions and because kidney enlargement can be a symptom of a variety of medical issues. This will require your veterinarian to use multiple diagnostic techniques to verify kidney enlargement and determine its underlying cause. Be prepared to provide your veterinarian with information about your pet’s medical history, any recent medical issues or procedures, any symptoms you have observed, and how long your cat has been presenting symptoms. A full physical examination may be performed. It is often possible for veterinary professionals to diagnose enlargement during a physical examination because the kidney swelling or abdominal mass is palpable.
Additional diagnostic methods will likely be used to determine what is causing kidney inflammation in your cat. A blood panel, including complete blood count and a close look at creatinine and phosphorous levels, is common. Urinalysis with particular attention to protein and blood in the urine is another routine method for identifying the underlying cause of kidney issues. Urine and blood cultures will help determine if an infection is responsible for your cat’s condition. Additionally, urine or feces may be examined under a microscope for signs of parasitic infection. X-rays and other imaging techniques will provide additional detail on the kidneys and interrelated systems. In some cases, exploratory surgery or tissue biopsy may also be used to form a diagnosis.
Treatment of Kidney Enlargement in Cats
If your cat is experiencing kidney or renal failure, treatment will be required immediately. Kidney failure can quickly become life-threatening. Hospitalization may be required for several days or weeks to stabilize and treat your pet. Medication may be prescribed to treat the underlying cause of kidney enlargement, but medications carry some risk as the kidneys will be responsible for processing any medication. Some common treatments associated with kidney enlargement in cats include:
The purpose of dialysis is to filter the blood, which is a normal function of the kidneys. When the kidneys are functioning poorly, waste material is not properly filtered. Dialysis can help with filtering. There is a moderate risk associated with dialysis, but the treatment will be recommended if the benefits outweigh the risk.
Surgery may be needed to clear an obstruction, remove a tumor, or repair certain issues. Surgery carries some risk and will require careful observation during surgery and recovery. Your pet will likely be hospitalized post-surgery to ensure there are no complications.
Intravenous (IV) Fluids
Fluid therapy can assist with dehydration, removing some impurities from the system, and balancing electrolyte levels. This common treatment carries a very low risk but is generally provided on an inpatient basis.
Proper nutrition and caloric intake is essential to your pet’s treatment and recovery. If your pet is experiencing weight loss or anorexia, a feeding tube or appetite stimulant may be used.
A kidney transplant may be recommended if your cat’s kidney is damaged beyond repair. Only certain cats will be a good candidate for transplant. Factors including your cat’s age, overall health, and the availability of a kidney that is a good match will all be considered. As with any surgical procedure, there is a moderate risk associated with this treatment.
Recovery of Kidney Enlargement in Cats
Your pet’s recovery from kidney enlargement will depend largely on the cause of the enlargement. In some cases, your cat’s condition will be easily treated, and recovery will occur fairly quickly. This is the case for the majority of infections and many toxins. Certain conditions that can cause kidney inflammation are not so easily treated. Additionally, if significant damage has occurred to one or both kidneys, the prognosis may be poor. If your cat is healthy enough to return to their home, fresh water should be kept nearby at all times. Proper fluid intake is essential to maintaining proper kidney function. Your veterinarian may also recommend dietary changes. Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s instructions for medications and follow-up visits as required.
Kidney Enlargement Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My three year old indoor only female kitty CK seems to have enlarged kidneys and what looks like a hernia. Could these issues be some how connected since both can be caused by trauma? I have no idea what could have caused her trauma unless she fell off of one of the high kitty condos. She is in the vet hospital receiving fluids and being monitored. She will receive an ultrasound and biopsy on thursday. I am keeping my fingers crossed
Enlarged kidneys may occur for numerous reasons and some cats will have small hernias without the owner being aware. I cannot say that the two or connected, an ultrasound and a fine needle aspirate or biopsy would be able to tell you more information. If trauma is the cause, you would be surprised how little trauma is needed to cause serious injury. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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Cashmere was diagnosed with enlarged kidneys. He has had 2 treatments under the skin with fluids within a week. He has lost another 1.3 lbs. he’s on a special diet now. He’s not eating much and not drinking much, mostly sleeping. He’s only 7 years old. Im so afraid he’s not going to make it..
Any advice ..?
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I care for a Persian chinchilla, she's 5 years old I understand and when she was speyed recently the vet noticed she had an enlarged kidney. She has been having anti biotic injections, blood test and fed special renal care pouch, her kidney hasn't really changed in size. She appears well and has put on weight though I have noticed that she drinks water more so than the other cats she is housed with. Before she was speyed I noticed that every so often she would get bouts of diarrhoea. The vet has said she needs to have a scan but her owner is reluctant. I have read that a cat an exist with one kidney functional is this correct and should she have the bad kidney removed ?
Thank you for your prompt response
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3 weeks ago our cat was diagnosed with an enlarged kidney. We were told to expect him to last only a couple more weeks. But he has since regained his appetite and most of his attitude. He is still drinking a lot, and more than normal which is understandable. My question is, would it be worth a follow up with our vet to determine if he's actually improving, or just go with the flow and let him do his thing. He just turned 15.
If Zeus is otherwise healthy and happy, keep an eye on him; but I think it would be worth to check his numbers (blood tests) and just monitor him generally and see how he goes. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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