What Are the Final Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Cats?

By Jane Meggitt

Final symptoms of kidney failure in cats include complete unwillingness to eat, weakness and lethargy, and possibly convulsions. It's obvious that your cat is dying. At this point, you have some difficult decisions to make. You can try some aggressive treatment that might buy him a little more time, or you can let him go.

Feline Kidney Failure

By the time your cat was diagnosed with kidney failure, his kidneys had probably been failing for quite some time. Kidney disease is divided into four stages, with stage IV the most severe, and most cats don't start showing clinical signs until stage III. At that point, the kidneys are working at under 25 percent of their capacity. Your vet will prescribe a special kidney diet for your pet. Your cat might benefit from dialysis, if you afford it.

There's no cure for kidney failure, with the extremely expensive exception of a kidney transplant. Even if money is no object, your cat must be healthy enough to undergo the surgery, and he'll also require special medications for the rest of his life. Veterinary facilities performing this procedure generally require that you adopt the cat donating the kidney.

Stage IV Symptoms

Loss of appetite, lethargy and convulsions aren't the only symptoms cats in stage IV kidney failure may exhibit, although they are the most common. The appetite loss generally results in weight loss and dehydration. Some cats develop mouth sores, and may experience vomiting and diarrhea. Kidney failure usually affects older cats, but younger felines afflicted with the condition may lose their teeth. Because renal failure affects bone density, cats might easily break bones.

Supportive Care

When your cat's kidneys are operating at under 15 percent of capacity, he's entered stage IV kidney failure, also known as the end stage. At that point, he is probably not eating because he constantly feels nauseous.

Besides any medications he's already receiving, your vet might recommend a few treatments to give your pet some additional quality time. These include 72-hour intravenous fluid treatment, done in the hospital, followed by subcutaneous fluids given at home. If he's not eating his special kidney diet, your vet might suggest feeding him any kind of cat food -- or even human food -- he will eat. Your cat's not going to live much longer, so let him indulge in the time he has left.

Knowing When to Let Go

It's hard to let go of a cherished pet. There's no way to sugarcoat that fact. Still, because you love your cat, you don't want him to suffer. Your veterinarian can guide you in this difficult decision. She'll know if your ailing feline is experiencing pain and if his quality of life is gone. You probably know that, too, but it's good to hear it from a professional. You can make euthanasia arrangements with your vet, including whether you want to be present to say goodbye. Your vet can also handle burial or cremation details.