End stage of kidney failure in cats

Updated November 21, 2016

Kidney failure, or chronic renal failure (CRF), is one of the most common causes of death in cats. Although CRF is terminal, your cat can live for months or even years with proper treatment. However, inevitably it will enter the end stages of the disease. The following are a few of the signs that your cat has reached the final phase of CRF.

Urination Difficulties

Cats with CRF typically urinate a great deal more than cats normally do. However, in end stage CRF cats may urinate little or not at all. This condition can come on suddenly and may need to be addressed with diuretics. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some CRF cats become incontinent and urinate wherever they happen to be. Be sure to have your cat checked by your veterinarian at the onset of any of these symptoms to confirm that it is not suffering from either a urinary tract infection or a blockage.

Bad Breath and Body Odor

As CRF progresses, toxins begin to build up in the body as a result of the kidneys' diminishing filtering capability. This build-up is detectable in the breath and through the pores of the skin.


Blindness can occur when high blood pressure in the CRF cat causes the retinas to detach. The retinas may, in some cases, reattach with treatment of the high blood pressure. Blindness in conjunction with some of the other end stage CRF symptoms is a good indication that the disease is worsening.

Sudden Weight Gain

The onset of sudden weight gain does not automatically indicate that your cat is eating more and regaining some semblance of good health; it may actually mean that your cat's body can no longer regulate fluids. This can lead to congestive heart failure.

Congestive Heart Failure

CRF cats commonly develop heart problems, which can be managed with medication, but the appropriate medications may place additional stress on the kidneys. Eventually these heart problems may deteriorate into congestive heart failure, which means that the cat's heart can no longer properly pump blood. Fluids then leak out of the veins and build up in and around the lungs and abdomen. The outlook is poor once congestive heart failure develops.

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