Chronic kidney disease is one of the more common illnesses we see in our geriatric patients, especially cats. It is not a disease that we can cure, but there are various ways that we can help protect the parts of the kidneys that are still functioning.
The kidneys are responsible for:
- 'Filtering’ the blood of various waste products
- Moderating the amount of water and salts (or electrolytes) lost into the urine from the blood. This means that when kidney function is decreased, waste products tend to build up in the blood and more water than normal is lost into the urine
- Helping to moderate blood pressure
- Production of red blood cells
What happens when kidneys start to fail?
The kidneys are made up of many tiny units called nephrons, which filter toxins out of the blood and re-absorb water to keep the animal hydrated. In many types of CKD, these nephrons are lost due to scarring or changes in the makeup of the kidney. Once a nephron is lost it cannot be replaced – this is why kidney disease cannot be reversed. Luckily for all of us, the kidney has a huge functional reserve – this means that an individual can function perfectly well with only a small percentage of functioning kidney – in fact, we often don’t see signs of kidney disease until at least 66% of kidney function has been lost!! (This is why you can live normally if you only have 1 kidney).