Kidney Disease in Cats –
Causes, Symptoms and Helpful Herbs

by Gary Le Mon

Kidney disease in cats

Kidney disease in cats is the number one killer among our aging felines. Also known as kidney failure or chronic renal failure, it involves the slow deterioration of the kidneys, usually accompanied by hyperthyroidism.

Development of Chronic Renal Failure in Cats

Kidneys are composed of thousands of units called nephrons. Nephrons are tube-like elements that filter the blood, reabsorb what is needed, and pass on what is left as urine.

When cats are young and healthy, they have an abundance of nephrons. As they get older, nephrons stop working as those that have been held in reserve begin to take over. Eventually, all of the cat's nephrons perform the necessary duties. Kidney damage begins when there are no nephrons left over for backup.

At this point there are no signs of damage. When two-thirds of the nephrons become damaged, the kidneys can no longer hold water and begin to pass increasing amounts of diluted urine. Lab results show elevated creatine levels as most of the kidney's nephrons are destroyed.

Causes and Signs of Feline Chronic Renal Failure

A host of factors exist as possible causes of kidney disease in cats, from feline leukemia and immune system disorders to urinary tract obstruction and exposure to toxins.

Signs of kidney disease vary from case to case. Sometimes they are slow and subtle and other times abrupt and acute. Some of the common symptoms that accompany renal failure are

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • weakness
  • excessive thirst
  • increased urination 

According to veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker, regular blood work helps to pinpoint chronic renal failure before it becomes severe. Cats seven years of age and older should be tested at least once a year, or every six months if possible.

Any cat that might have renal failure should also be checked for hyperthyroid as well. These conditions often go together. High blood pressure is another disorder that often accompanies kidney disease.

Treatment of Chronic Renal Failure in Cats

Controlling the accumulation of nitrogenous waste in the blood, known as uremia, is vital for the treatment of renal disease in cats. Slowing the disease's progression and trying to keep the cat as comfortable and happy as possible is also important.

Fluid therapy is often recommended in order to help alleviate common symptoms while flushing waste products out of the cat's system. Fluids injected under the skin are administered by the veterinarian, then by the owner once the cat's condition becomes stable.

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Food, Supplements, and Stress Reduction

Cats with chronic renal failure need high-quality proteins. Diets that are high in protein and low in sodium and phosphorus are ideal.

Changing your cat's diet can be difficult since, like people, they can become addicted to certain foods that contain processed ingredients. These foods are hard to digest and tax the cat's system.

Providing prescription dry kibble isn't optimal for the treatment of kidney disease in cats. Making the transition to a high-quality, human grade canned or fresh food diet supports kidney function. Whole foods are not only more nutritious, but also provide much-needed moisture to help replenish the kidneys. An abundant supply of fresh water is also crucial for cats with kidney disease.

Several nutritional supplements, including B complex and probiotics, are also beneficial. Ask your veterinarian for help in deciding which supplements would be best for your cat's situation.

Try to ease your cat's stress as much as possible. Provide a variety of environments that go from dim to well-lit. Boredom causes stress, so allow access to a window where she can watch people and birds. Classical music, clean scents, and massage are also excellent stress-busters.

Helpful Herbs for Better Quality of Life and Health

A handful of common but specific herbs are used successfully in today’s naturopathic clinics much like ancient herbalists administered centuries ago. These drug-free phytonutrients empower your pet’s natural healing defenses at the very source of the problem, acting upon systems, glands and organs.

Echinacea Angustifolia is the pet herbalist’s Number 1 weapon against infection anywhere along your cat's urinary tract (kidneys, bladder and urethra). This immune system booster is also a pain-reliever, anti-bacterial agent and anti-inflammatory.

Uva Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva ursi) contains arbutin which converts to hydroquinone in the urinary tract. Hydroquinone is an antiseptic believed by veterinary scientists to give Uva ursi its powerful ability to fight cat and dog urinary tract infection. It also has the diuretic properties needed to clean and flush harmful bacteria from the kidneys.

Goldenrod (Solidaginis virguarea) is anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, analgesic and diuretic. This multiple action is extremely effective in combating infection. Goldenrod also prevents the formation of kidney or bladder stones by helping to remove urinary sediment.

Marshmallow root (Althea Officinalis) soothes irritation of mucous membranes in the urinary tract and reduces inflammation. Marshmallow also encourages phagocytosis, a process in which certain cells absorb and destroy unwanted micro-organisms in the blood.

Apple Cider Vinegar is a natural detoxicant and contains over 40 vitamins and minerals. An abundance of anecdotal evidence attests to Apple Cider Vinegar’s success in treating kidney disease in cats.

These five plant nutrients – all USDA Certified Organic – are skillfully formulated in a blend of purified water and organic vegetable glycerin: our own Primalix® Number 1, Herbal Extract, Functional Food Drops.

Chronic Renal Failure is a Modern Disorder

Kidney disease in cats may be the primary cause of death among domestic felines, but this is not true of those living in the wild. Like hunter-gatherers who live off the land, wild animals don't eat processed foods that rob the body of nutrients and cause disease. Dry kibble, environmental toxins, inbreeding, and over-vaccination destroy a cat's health and ability to fight off disease.

Chronic kidney failure is the number-one killer among modern house cats. Regular testing helps catch the disorder before it gets out of hand. An early diagnosis can mean a long, fulfilling life. Treatment with a high-quality, nutrient-dense diet, stress-management techniques, and dietary and herbal supplements can have a meaningful impact on the well-being of cats with chronic renal failure aka kidney disease in cats.


Becker, Karen, DVM. "Why Do So Many Domestic Cats Have Chronic Kidney Failure?" Healthy Pets with Dr. Karen Becker. Dr. Joseph Mercola, 6 Aug. 2012. Web. 12 Aug. 2012.

Kidney Disease in Cats

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