Kidney Disease in Cats

David McCluggage, D.V.M., C.V.A.

Kidney disease is a very serious disease, and perhaps the most common serious disorder your cat may develop.

Any cat that is suspected of having kidney disease should be seen by a local veterinarian.

Since kidney disease is so common, it is reasonable to ask why so many cats develop this disorder. Although no one knows for sure, we believe the causes include:

  1. Diets
    Commercial dry food diets seem to produce kidney disease, and they certainly produce cystitis

    Cats are 100% carnivores by nature and commercial diets often provide 50-60% of the calories as grains. This alters a cat's normal metabolic processes, changes the cat's pH (acid/base) balance, and creates obesity

    Meat-based diets prevent the development and retard the progression of kidney disease

    We believe that cats fed all-meat diets do not develop as much kidney disease as those fed commercial diets.
    Meat based diets must be balanced; see our information on how to feed your cat.

  2. Excessive vaccinations
  3. This has not been completely proven, but we do know that vaccines can cause autoimmune diseases. We also know that autoimmune disease can cause a problem in the kidneys called glomerulonephritis. See our recommendations for vaccinations in cats.

  4. Hereditary/Genetic

  5. People that breed cats are rarely motivated by a view toward long-term health and vitality. Over time, poor breeding always develops weaknesses. Kidney disease is a good example

  6. Other Concurrent Diseases
    Other conditions, especially Hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone) will commonly lead to kidney disease

Diagnosis of Kidney Disease

Symptoms of advanced kidney disease include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Increased urination
  • More frequent trips to the litterbox and an increased amount of urine found in the litterbox
  • Dehydration
  • Breaking house training (the kidneys produce more urine and some cats find themselves too far away from the litter box when they need to urinate)
  • Some cats produce so much urine that it either leaks out, which is called incontinence, or they need to urinate so badly they decide to go in a place more convenient than the litter pan (they get "caught away" from the litterbox when they suddenly really need to urinate)

Unfortunately, these signs of kidney disease are fairly late in the progression of the disorder. What would be helpful is to have methods that detect kidney disease in its earliest stages. However, it is hard to diagnose kidney disease in its earliest stages.

The kidneys need to lose at least 70% of their tissue before the normal tests we run in Western veterinary medicine will show any disorder.

We believe that there are other diagnostic methods that may show kidney weakness at an earlier stage, including:

  • Traditional Chinese Medical Tongue and Pulse Diagnosis
    Chinese medicine has used tongue and pulse diagnosis for a very long time to detect dysfunction of organs before they become damaged to the point of failure.

  • Energetic Tests
    Although there is no proof, many holistic doctors believe they can use techniques such as Applied Kinesiology and Nogier Pulse Diagnosis to help determine the body's weaknesses before organs fail.

  • Urine Albumin test
    When the kidneys are beginning to fail, they often start leaking albumin. There are new tests available now that detect minute amounts of albumin in the urine. These tests may be much more predictive of kidney disease earlier than the other Western Veterinary medical tests that are routinely performed.

Treatment for Kidney Disease


Acupuncture is remarkable in its ability to slow the progression of kidney disease and help return a sick cat to a more normal life.


Western medicine will routinely place cats on low protein diets at the first signs of kidney disease. This is not necessary (the experts at the universities agree) and actually is very harmful. With kidney disease, there are both increased loss of proteins and increased need for them due to the need to rebuild cells throughout the body that have been damaged by the kidney disease. For a specific recommendation for your cat, we would need particulars on your cat's condition.

Herbal and Nutraceutical Medicine

Chinese and Western herbal medicine plays a key role in treating kidney disease. See below for general recommendations or call for a phone consult for specific recommendations for your companion animal.

Some general recommendations for kidney support include:

  • Kidney Glandulars
    Kidney glandulars provide many of the needed nutrients to support healthy kidney function, and may help slow the loss of healthy kidney tissues. Glandulars may work in part by a theory called "Oral Tolerance", where the body decreases the damage it inflicts on the kidneys (a common event with kidney disease) due to a mechanism of desensitization similar to that employed with allergy desensitization shots.

  • Vitamin A
    Lack of adequate levels of Vitamin A will produce squamous metaplasia, causing permanent damage to the kidneys. A deficiency of Vitamin A will promote the formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones. Vitamin A will also nurture tubular lining cells and boost the immune response, thus decreasing the incidence of low grade pyelonephritis.

  • Vitamin E
    A powerful free-radical scavenger, Vitamin E will help stabilize the membranes of kidney cells. Its immune boosting function will help eliminate pyelonephritis. Vitamin E has value for every epithelial tissue, so would be of benefit in kidney disease. However, it would not be considered a primary mode of therapy for kidney disease.

  • Vitamin B Complex
    B vitamins are water-soluble and will be flushed out of the body at a more rapid rate due to the increased water loss seen with kidney disease. Their supplementation is required, either in the diet or as a nutritional supplement.

  • Zinc
    Some forms of kidney disease have low-grade infections as secondary or primary causes. Zinc acts as an immune stimulant, for chronic low-grade bacterial pyelonephritis. It inhibits crystallization, lowering the incidence of kidney stones.

  • Dandelion
    Dandelion is a potent diuretic that will increase the glomerular filtration rate, while sparing the potassium depletion seen with most pharmaceutical diuretics. It is considered a kidney tonic as well.

  • Parsley
    Parsley, Petroselinum crispun, is a potent kidney tonic and diuretic. It has antibiotic properties, making it effective in the treatment of low-grade pyelonephritis conditions.

Products We Recommend:

  1. Small Animal Antioxidants
  2. Renal Essentials-Canine
  3. Renal Essentials-Feline
  4. Feline Geriatric Basic Nutrients
  5. Chinese Herbal Medicine
    1. Golden Book Teapills
    2. 6 Flavor Teapills
    3. Ginseng and Antler Deer
  6. EPA-DHA 6:1
  7. , Metagenics