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, ©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services