Kidney failure can be sneaky, creeping up on both cat and guardian without symptoms until later stages. The appearance of symptoms signals the more serious stages of kidney failure. Bloating is one of the symptoms, and it's a sign the kidneys are no longer able to eliminate toxins.
Why Bloating Occurs During Kidney Failure
Bloating is also known as edema. When it occurs during kidney disease, it can be due to heavy protein loss in the urine. It is also a result of toxins accumulating in the body. During kidney failure, kidneys lose their ability to eliminate toxins through the urine. As a result, toxins remain in the body, causing a plethora of symptoms, including bloating. Edema and other symptoms usually don't occur until a cat has lost about 70 percent of kidney function.
The National Kidney Foundation created an outline of five kidney disease stages, each with its own symptoms and other markers. Before Stage 3, there may be no symptoms at all. However, tests may show elevated levels of creatinine or urea, waste products produced during protein metabolism. Tests may show blood or protein in the urine. MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds, X-rays and blood panels can help detect kidney damage at these stages.
Once a cat has progressed into these deeper stages of kidney failure, bloating and other symptoms appear. One of the first noticeable symptoms is increased urination, or urinary accidents around the house. Other signs include lethargy, appetite and weight loss, dry fur, dark urine, mouth sores, anemia, vomiting and diarrhea. Toward the end stages, a cat is unable to produce much if any urine. This leads to increased bloating and additional buildup of toxins, causing a rapid health decline.
Catching Kidney Issues Early
Because symptoms don't appear until much kidney function is already gone, regular testing is key to early detection. Bringing a cat to the vet for regular urinalysis and bloodwork can help catch kidney issues in their early phases, before symptoms like bloating appear. Ultrasounds, X-rays and other tests offer further insight. If caught early enough, some kidney problems can be treated or subdued with dialysis, fluid therapy, diet changes, increased water consumption, vitamin and mineral replacement, mild activity levels and even transplants.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.