What are Kidney Filtration Problems?
Your veterinarian may refer to your cat's kidney problems as nephrotic syndrome or glomerular disease. Both of these terms simply refer to reduced or anomalous kidney filtration in cats.
Kidneys operate as filters for your cat's blood, keeping the blood's constituents in balance by allowing some vitamins, minerals and electrolytes to pass into the urine. When the complex filtration apparatus in the kidneys, the glomeruli, become dysfunctional, your cat can suffer a host of symptoms. Without early intervention and lifestyle changes, kidney filtration problems in cats can be life-threatening. Only a qualified veterinary professional can diagnose and treat your cat's kidney problems.
Symptoms of Kidney Filtration Problems in Cats
Symptoms of kidney filtration problems in cats are usually related to the urinary tract initially, but become more systemic with time. A cat with kidney filtration problems may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
- Edema, or fluid accumulation, especially in the legs
- Ascites, or edema in the trunk
- Labored breathing
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- High blood pressure
If your cat is exhibiting these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately. Only a veterinarian can properly diagnose kidney disease and administer proper treatment.
Causes of Kidney Filtration Problems in Cats
Some forms of filtration problems in cats are the result of inherited disorders related to protein folding or kidney structure. Causes of acquired kidney filtration problems in cats are not completely understood. Some causes are known, however, including:
- Ingestion of toxic substances, such as pesticides, plants, and human medication
- Blockages that interfere with kidney filtration
- Cancer or other inflammatory conditions
Diagnosis of Kidney Filtration Problems in Cats
Your veterinarian will likely begin the diagnostic process with a physical examination of your cat and the collection of a comprehensive medical and environmental history. Your veterinarian will need to know your cat's age, as this may offer insight into the cause of her kidney filtration problems. Your veterinarian may ask whether your cat has ingested any toxic substances. A veterinarian will also palpate your cat's trunk and limbs in search of fluid accumulation, swelling and tenderness. He may examine the rib cage and other bony areas for signs of muscle wasting, a symptom of protein excessively excreted in the urine.
Urine and blood samples will be collected from your cat as part of the diagnostic process. Urinalysis may show proteinuria, or protein excreted in the urine, a major clinical sign of kidney filtration problems in cats. Analysis of your cat's blood may show elevated BUN, creatinine and phosphorus levels.
A renal biopsy is the only test to definitely prove the cause of your cat's kidney filtration problems. Imaging techniques such as ultrasonography or serum tests may also be ordered as part of differential diagnosis or to gather more information on the extent of damage.
Treatment of Kidney Filtration Problems in Cats
Treatment of your cat's kidney filtration problems will largely depend on the cause. Some therapies will target the kidney damage itself, while others will seek to manage the symptoms of kidney filtration problems. A protein-restricted, low salt diet may be ordered, as these substances are problematic for the already-taxed kidneys. Diuretics may be ordered to encourage the production and excretion of urine and metabolic waste.
For immune-mediated kidney filtration problems, immunosuppressants may be prescribed. Anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids are the first course of treatment for amyloidosis.
It is important to seek veterinary treatment for any suspected kidney problems in your cat, as they are serious and can progress quickly. Early intervention for kidney filtration problems in cats usually greatly improves the prognosis, although the condition may require management throughout your cat's life.
Recovery of Kidney Filtration Problems in Cats
Kidney filtration problems are usually managed rather than cured. A cat with kidney filtration problems will require food that is specially formulated to be low in protein and sodium.
Follow-up appointments are incredibly important for cats with a diagnosis of any type of kidney disease. If your cat's condition worsens, it will require immediate intervention. Modifications in your cat's treatment and management plans may be required to prevent the onset of chronic kidney disease, which is often fatal.