Pet Education

Browse our veterinary-reviewed Dog and Cat Illness Guide to learn more about pet health. Always talk to your veterinarian if you have a concern about your pet's symptoms or health.
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Feline Kidney Failure

Acute Kidney (Renal) Failure
Chronic Kidney (Renal) Failure

Kidneys have many functions:

The kidney's filtering system is made of thousands of microscopic tubes called nephrons. A kidney can still function if some nephrons are damaged and stop working. However, kidney failure occurs if they stop working too suddenly for the good nephrons to compensate or if most of the nephrons stop working.

The immediate risk of failing kidneys is that they cannot clear the blood of dangerous toxins.

There are 2 types of kidney failure:

  1. Acute kidney (renal) failure (ARF): a sudden loss of function that occurs so suddenly that the functioning nephrons don't have time to compensate. Acute kidney failure is often reversible if diagnosed in the early stages and treated aggressively.
  2. Chronic kidney (renal) failure: A loss of function that occurs gradually over months or years. The kidneys lose their ability to filter the blood of wastes. CRF can lead to total kidney failure.


There are many ways for the nephrons to become damaged:




When the kidneys are not removing wastes from the body, your cat will show many signs:

Some additional signs:



The chronic disease progresses for years and can go unnoticed. When signs finally appear, the disease is already advanced. But with proper treatment, some cats with chronic kidney failure live comfortably for years after diagnosis.


Your veterinarian may perform the following:



Aggressive action must be taken:


If the kidneys are severely damaged, medical treatment will not be able to reverse the condition. But with early diagnosis and aggressive treatment, many dogs will resume a normal lifestyle for a while.

There are more intense treatment options available:

Home treatment for chronic failure:


Kidney failure can develop naturally as the kidneys wear out. Since this happens with age, there is no accurate preventative measure; it can only be treated.

Ingestion of even a small amount of antifreeze can lead to acute kidney failure and death. It's more common with outdoor cats that are more often exposed to antifreeze.



ARF is a life-threatening condition with a guarded prognosis.

The prognosis is better if an infection is the cause rather than a toxic substance.

The long-term prognosis for recovery depends on the amount of kidney damage because kidney tissue cannot re-grow.

Your veterinarian will do blood and urine tests during treatment to see how well the kidneys are responding. If there is a positive change within the first 48-72 hours of therapy, there is a good prognosis. If there is no change, the prognosis is weak.


Most cases of CRF progress slowly. Therefore, with proper management, your cat can have a good quality of life for several years.

Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM

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