Young Cat In Kidney Failure? Can It Be? Dr. Susan Little Answers Reader

Young Cat In Kidney Failure? Can It Be? Dr. Susan Little Answers Reader

Q: A year ago, my 7-year-old cat was diagnosed with kidney failure. Now, my 3-year-old Maine Coon has been diagnosed with the same problem. My veterinarian said his blood count is low and he's been receiving a steroid pill for that. I'm 66 and have had cats my entire life. Is kidney disease in cats something new? What might cause kidney failure in such a young cat? -- S.P., Umatilla, FL

A: Kidney disease is an exceedingly common problem among older cats. There's much in your question which is confusing, as feline veterinarian Dr. Susan Little, of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada notes. "Kidney failure is end-stage disease, kidney insufficiency or kidney disease is perhaps more likely your cats' problem, at least your older cat," she says.

As for the younger cat, Little says, "While we do see kidney disease in cats as young as 6 or 7 years, it's very unusual to see kidney insufficiency in a cat who's only 3 years old. About the steroids, cats can withstand their long-term use, but only with careful monitoring. Even in cats, steroids are not without possible side effects. Of course, cats should only be given steroids when warranted." Based on the reader question there's no appropriate explanation for the use of a steroid.

Little, who is a past president of the Winn Feline Foundation, and editor of the textbook "The Cat: Clinical Medicine and Management" (Elsevier, St. Louis, MO, 2012; $151), adds, "There needs to be clarification and also an explanation about what's really going on with your younger cat. In this instance, I'd suggest an exam by a feline veterinarian." Your veterinarian can offer a referral or you can check the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Reader question from Tribune Media Services newspaper column, ┬ęSteve Dale, Tribune Media Services



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  • Hi Steve,

    Always great to see Dr Susan offering her expertise to answer questions. I was also wondering about the steroids, so it is nice to see that Dr Susan had the same question.

    I wonder if PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease) might be a cause of kidney disease in a younger cat? I don't know a lot about it, and have read that while cats with it are born with cysts, most don't advance to the point of signs of kidney disease until they are middle aged (7-8 yrs old). But I've read that it can progress more quickly in some cats. On the other hand, the questioner said her cat is a Maine Coon ... and I'm not aware of Maine Coons having inheritable PKD. And, I'm sure there are other possible causes ... such as having gotten into something toxic (e.g., plant, cleaning solution) or other medications, etc.

    I'm glad that the feline specialists and kidney experts (nephrologists) have thrown out the old "CRF" (Chronic Renal Failure) terminology and now refer to it as simply "CKD" (Chronic Kidney Disease), as Dr Susan noted. So many vets and others still say CRF ... and the "failure" part of that can strike terror into the heart of a pet owner. It is misleading since many cats have a "chronic" kidney disease which they can live with for many years with supportive care. As Dr Susan mentioned, it is only at the end stage that it actually becomes "failure".

    The only other thing that I would note ... is that it is my understanding (correct me if I'm wrong) that the AAFP allows any vet with an interest in feline medicine to join. So, looking for a referral to an AAFP veterinarian will get you someone with a specific feline interest ... but not necessarily a Board Certified Feline Specialist (like Dr Susan). You might suggest that her vet refer her to a vet who is Board Certified in Feline Medicine by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). One can check for a ABVP Specialist at their website at: ... just choose "feline" in the "Category" field.

    Guess I'm in a "pondering" mood tonight. Thanks, as always, for bringing the knowledge of experts like Dr Susan to us pet owners.

    Stephanie in Montreal

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