What to do if you suspect your pet is having urinary and renal problems

I think that kidney and urinary tract diseases are probably the most common problems we see at my practice after digestive disease and joint disease.

How do kidneys work?

The urinary system starts with the kidneys which make urine. This urine flows down the ureter from each kidney into the bladder. Urine leaves the bladder through the urethra. The kidneys produce urine to remove protein waste from the body and are also important in the maintenance of salts, blood volume and blood pressure. The kidneys also produce a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO) which stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells.

When we eat protein our body breaks them down into the amino acid building blocks. We use the ones we need and excrete the ones we don’t need in our urine. Cats and dogs are the same as us.

Kidney failure symptoms

Kidney failure can be classified as acute or chronic. Acute renal failure can happen at any age and is quite rare. It’s more common to see elderly cats with chronic kidney failure. We are suspicious of kidney failure if the cat or dog is drinking more water or losing weight.

We can usually diagnose with a blood test and a urine sample. Treatment consists of changing a pet’s diet to specially formulated lower-protein diets (usually with only the needed amino acids). As well as giving medication to open up the blood vessels in the kidneys and reduce blood pressure.

Acupuncture referrals 

In these cases, we regularly refer cats to our acupuncturist, Dr Emma Styles. Often elderly cats and dogs have arthritis too and we find acupuncture can really help with both.

Urinary problems

Urinary problems are often more commonly seen in young animals and can be very serious and sometimes life-threatening.

Bladder and kidney stones 

Bladder and kidney stones can suddenly prevent the flow of urine and be extremely serious. In young male cats and may be due to a blocked bladder. This means that they cannot urinate. Sometimes these cats have a small stone blocking their urethra but more commonly we do not find a blockage and the cause is a muscle spasm in the urethra.

If your cat CANNOT URINATE this is an EMERGENCY and you must call the vet straight away. The cat will be straining to pass urine and only possibly tiny dribbles of urine will be coming out. These cats can be very difficult to treat successfully as we believe the cause is probably stress and therefore managing this is problematic. Early diagnosis and treatment are important.

Bladder infections 

We often see bladder infections, cystitis and low grade chronic renal failure. Bladder infections are commonly seen with diabetes.

What do to if you’re worried 
Watch out for:

• Increased drinking
• Fatigue
• Unexplained weight loss
• Changes in appetite
• Increased frequency of urination
• Noticeable changes in urine e.g. blood, discolouration or abnormal smell

Urinary and renal problems are often painful and debilitating. If your pet has any of the symptoms I’ve described it is important that you get them checked over by your vet.

Take good care of your pets!

Emma the Vet
Notting Hill & Barons Court Vet

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