Chronic Renal Failure (CRF)

When your cat's kidneys stop functioning properly and are unable to remove all the bodies' waste products we can say that your cat is in chronic renal failure. There are many tiny individual structures in the kidneys called nephrons( about 200 thousand of them). As your cat ages some of these die off but only when more then 70% are lost will your cat's kidneys not be able to detoxify all the harmful waste products of the body. This is a progressive and irreversible process and although your cat may suddenly seem to become sick, it may have taken quite some time to lose enough of the kidneys function. Only then do we start to see the symptoms of renal failure.


Generally your cat will be losing part of his kidney function all through his life. This is why we see it as a common disease in older cats. Some contributing factors may be the diet we feed them, certain drugs especially anti inflammatory and pain killer drugs, long surgical procedures, low blood potassium, chronic dehydration and certain breeds seem more susceptible.


You will eventually see at least some of the symptoms on the following list. Not all cats will exhibit all symptoms.

Excessive urination
Increased drinking
Nausea and vomiting
Licking lips
Hunching over the water bowl
Loss of appetite
Weight loss
Muscle wasting & emaciation
Poor hair coat
Halitosis due to urea smell on breath.
Weakness & depression
Gingivitis and ulcerations in the mouth
Low body temperature

There is no cure for CRF but the condition may be managed for quite some time in some cats, depending on how much damage has been done. We can get a pretty good prognosis on future quality of life by the blood tests we do to determine the amount of kidney damage. The cornerstone of CRF management is to control the amount of waste products that are sent through the kidneys. Since the remaining nephrons are limited in their ability to process waste, the idea is to reduce the amount of waste to a level that the nephrons can accommodate. This is done through a combination of diet, medication, and hydration therapy (this may mean your cat may have to stay in hospital for a few days to get iv fluid therapy). We will also use anabolic steroids to keep protein in the body cells and vitamin therapy as many vitamins will be lost through the kidneys. We may also start your cat on a medication to help increase the blood flow through the kidneys.


Chronic renal failure is a terminal disease and will eventually cause the death of your pet. However, a cat may live for many years with CRF with appropriate care and medication. Usually we suggest putting your pet to sleep when the discomfort becomes severe and the quality of your cats life becomes poor.