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What Happens in CKD?

Causes of CKD

How Bad is It?

Is There Any Hope?

Acute Kidney Injury



Nausea, Vomiting, Appetite Loss and Excess Stomach Acid

Maintaining Hydration

The Importance of Phosphorus Control

All About Hypertension

All About Anaemia

All About Constipation

Potassium Imbalances

Metabolic Acidosis

Kidney Stones



Coping with CKD

Tanya's Support Group

Success Stories



Alphabetical List of Symptoms and Treatments

Fluid and Urinary  Imbalances (Dehydration, Overhydration and Urinary Issues)

Waste Product Regulation Imbalances (Vomiting, Appetite Loss, Excess Stomach Acid, Gastro-intestinal Problems, Mouth Ulcers Etc.)

Phosphorus and Calcium Imbalances

Miscellaneous Symptoms (Pain, Hiding Etc.)



Blood Chemistry: Kidney Function, Potassium, Other Tests (ALT, Amylase, (Cholesterol, Etc.)

Calcium, Phosphorus, Parathyroid Hormone (PTH) and Secondary Hyperparathyroidism

Complete Blood Count (CBC): Red and White Blood Cells: Anaemia and Infection

Urinalysis (Urine Tests)

Other Tests: Ultrasound, Biopsy, X-rays etc.

Renomegaly (Enlarged Kidneys)

Which Tests to Have and Frequency of Testing

Factors that Affect Test Results

Normal Ranges

International and US Measuring Systems



Which Treatments are Essential

Fluid and Urinary Issues (Fluid Retention, Infections, Incontinence, Proteinuria)

Waste Product Regulation (Mouth Ulcers, GI Bleeding, Antioxidants, Adsorbents, Azodyl, Astro's CRF Oil)

Phosphorus, Calcium and Secondary Hyperparathyroidism (Calcitriol)

Miscellaneous Treatments: Stem Cell Transplants, ACE Inhibitors - Fortekor, Steroids, Kidney Transplants)

Antibiotics and Painkillers

Holistic Treatments (Including Slippery Elm Bark)

ESAs (Aranesp, Epogen etc.) for Severe Anaemia

General Health Issues in a CKD Cat: Fleas, Arthritis, Dementia, Vaccinations

Tips on Medicating Your Cat

Obtaining Supplies Cheaply in the UK, USA and Canada

Working with Your Vet and Recordkeeping



Nutritional Requirements of CKD Cats

The B Vitamins (Including Methylcobalamin)

What to Feed (and What to Avoid)

Persuading Your Cat to Eat

Food Data Tables

USA Canned Food Data

USA Dry Food Data

USA Cat Food Manufacturers

UK Canned Food Data

UK Dry Food Data

UK Cat Food Manufacturers

2007 Food Recall USA



Intravenous Fluids

Subcutaneous Fluids

Tips on Giving Subcutaneous Fluids

How to Give Subcutaneous Fluids with a Giving Set

How to Give Subcutaneous Fluids with a Syringe

Subcutaneous Fluids - Winning Your Vet's Support




Heart Problems



Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)


Dental Problems









The Final Hours

Other People's Losses

Coping with Your Loss



Early Detection



Canine Kidney Disease

Other Illnesses (Cancer, Liver) and Behavioural Problems

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Home > Symptoms



  • The symptoms of CKD are many and varied.

  • If your cat suffers from one particular CKD-related problem, there may be several symptoms present, some of which you might not necessarily associate with each other. For example, you may know that weakness is a common symptom of anaemia, but not many people realise that eating litter is often a sign of anaemia.

  • This chapter aims to describe the various symptoms which you may see and their possible causes.


Finding The Symptom You Need


The best way to find a symptom is to visit the Index of Symptoms and Treatments page, where all the symptom are listed alphabetically, with quick links to each individual symptom and appropriate treatments.


Although the number of symptoms may appear overwhelming, you will not necessarily see all these symptoms, and which ones you see at any one time will depend upon the severity of your cat's CKD and his/her own particular weaknesses. Almost all of the symptoms are treatable, so don't give up hope. .


If your cat is showing any of the symptoms listed, make an appointment with your vet, since some of the symptoms may have more than one cause, so you need an accurate diagnosis in order to treat properly.  


Diagnosis and management of chronic renal failure in cats (c. 2000) Sparkes A, has a list on page 2 of the most commonly seen symptoms in CKD cats.

Vet Help Direct allows you to select your cat's symptoms, answer a number of questions and be given advice on possible causes of the symptoms.




Crashing in a medical context means a sudden and severe downturn in the patient's condition. In a CKD cat it indicates a crisis usually associated with severe dehydration. Crashes are rarely treatable at home - in most cases the cat will require hospitalisation. If, after reading the information below, you think your cat may be crashing, please seek veterinary advice urgently. 


Body Fluid Regulation and Urinary Issues                                                                    Go to page


This page covers fluid and urinary-related symptoms. It includes the common signs of increased urination and drinking, proteinuria, dehydration and its opposite problem, overhydration, constipation and diarrhoea, urinary tract infections and kidney infections, blood in urine, reduced urination, incontinence, inappropriate elimination, weight gain and swelling, coughing and runny eyes.


Regulation of Waste Products in the Body                                                             Go to page


As the kidneys gradually lose their ability to regulate and remove waste products effectively, these waste products build up in the blood; this is called uraemia and can make a cat feel very unwell. Symptoms include vomiting, appetite loss, gastro-intestinal bleeding and mouth ulcers.


Regulation of Minerals in the Body                                                                                             Go to page


Phosphorus and calcium are minerals used in the body, but imbalances may arise in CKD cats and lead to a condition known as secondary hyperparathyroidism, which may make the CKD progress faster. 


Symptoms include appetite loss, itching, twitching, back leg weakness and unco-ordinated limbs, knuckling, plantigrade, teeth grinding, constipation, weakness, weight loss, eating litter, licking concrete, low temperature


Potassium Imbalances                                                                                                            Go to page

Potassium is an electrolyte essential to the functioning of the body at cellular level, but with increased urination, imbalances may arise, and may cause the following symptoms:


Lethargy, weakness and muscle wasting, a plantigrade posture, where the cat walks on his/her hocks instead of his/her feet, stilted gait, stiff neck, hoarseness, trouble breathing, constipation, increased night time urination, seizures or twitching.


Metabolic Acidosis                                                                                                           Go to page


This is quite common in CKD cats. Symptoms include weight loss, particularly lean muscle loss and a bony spine, breathlessness, mouth ulcers, vomiting and twitching.


Nausea, Vomiting, Loss of Appetite and Excess Stomach Acid                                   Go to page


Many CKD cats have problems with excess stomach acid.  Symptoms that may be seen include: Loss of appetite, excess stomach acid, vomiting and nausea,vomiting water, playing with water, hunched over water bowl, liplicking, teeth grinding, yawning, eating grass, bad breath, mouth ulcers, gastro-intestinal bleeding, diarrhoea, body odour, itching, twitching, seizures, howling, hoarseness.


Constipation                                                                                                                      Go to page

This is also very common in CKD cats. Symptoms include vomiting before, during or immediately after using the litter tray, loss of appetite, pooping next to the litter tray, dry stools and an ungainly walk.

Anaemia                                                                                                                           Go to page


The kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin, which stimulates the bone marrow to make blood cells. As the kidneys fail, they cannot produce enough erythropoietin, and a particular type of anaemia called non-regenerative anaemia results (other types of anaemia must be excluded, of course). 


Signs of anaemia include nausea, appetite loss, weakness, feeling cold, liplicking, pale nose, gums or eyelids, lethargy, back leg weakness, heavy breathing, fast heart rate, wheezing, eating litter, ice or snow, low temp.


Severe anaemia is life-threatening, so please read up on it.


Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)                                                                        Go to Page


High blood pressure is common in CKD cats. It is essential to watch for it and treat it if present because it can cause some serious problems, such as blindness or a stroke.


If your CKD cat suddenly becomes blind, hypertension is the most likely cause, and can be reversed in some cases if you treat it quickly enough.


This is such an important topic that it has its own page here.


Miscellaneous Symptoms                                                                                           Go to page

This page includes pain, hiding, increased appetite, seeking you out, purring, and symptoms relating to the coat, such as hair or fur loss, pulling out hair or coat colour change.


Crashing refers to a crisis situation for your cat. It may happen suddenly and be what finally alerts you to the existence of CKD in your cat; or it may happen after your cat has been suffering from CKD for some time. 


The Meatloaf Position

A cat who has crashed will often be lying in a "meatloaf" position, which is very similar to the Sphynx position but with the head down and the front paws close to the body.


I find this section of the site can really worry people. I am often asked exactly what the meatloaf position looks like and how it differs from the Sphynx position. Indie to the left is lying in the Sphynx position. Many healthy cats such as Indie assume this pose, so it is not grounds for worry. Here Indie (non CKD) is lying down, but her head is not down, her eyes are not dull, and she's making eye contact.

To the right is a photograph of Tart in the meatloaf position. The Cat Site also has a photo of a cat in the meatloaf position. In these photos hopefully you can see the difference compared to Indie.


But on its own, even this position is not a reason to panic. Cats with excess stomach acid, for example, may lie in this position. It is when you see the meatloaf position in conjunction with the following symptoms that your cat may be crashing:

  • is severely dehydrated;

  • has extremely strong bad breath;

  • has a strong body odour;

  • the eyes are dull;

  • is refusing to eat and possibly also to drink


The day Tanya died, she lay in this position. She refused to raise her head and her eyes were dull. She also stayed in that position, seemingly unwilling to move. 

Crashing does not necessarily mean the end is near, but it does mean you need to contact your vet urgently. It usually occurs because your cat has reached a crisis point in terms of balancing his or her fluid intake and output. The cat has probably been drinking more to compensate for the increased urination, but can no longer drink enough. As a consequence most cats who crash are very dehydrated, and their bloodwork values when tested are very high. The bad breath smell will be particularly strong, perhaps with mouth ulcers present, and your cat may also have a generally strong body odour. The cat will often be unable to get comfortable because of all the toxins in the body - this may explain the meatloaf position. He/she will have dull, perhaps sunken eyes and not make eye contact. Your cat will probably refuse to eat and may also refuse to drink.


Crashing is a medical emergency. Your cat will usually need rehydration therapy at the vet's in an attempt to combat the dehydration and reduce the bloodwork values, and you should contact your vet WITHOUT DELAY. Delaying could be very serious for your cat, as the toxin levels in the body will continue to rise if left untreated. When Thomas first crashed, I didn't realise what it was and I did not call the vet because it was a Sunday and I didn't like to bother her - she told me off, and said waiting had been very risky and at the very least had condemned Thomas to another day and night of feeling awful. If caught early enough, your vet may be able to save your cat as our vet saved Thomas on two occasions, so don't take any chances. 


During Thomas's first crash, his BUN was 86 (US: BUN 241), and this value did not change at all after four solid days and nights of IV. However, with home treatments, we did gradually reduce his numbers to urea 27 (BUN: 76) and creatinine 316 (US: 3.57), where they stabilised for some months. You can read Thomas's story in the Tanya, Thomas and Ollie section.




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This page last updated: 03 November 2011


Links on this page last checked: 23 March 2012