April 2010 Issue

Diagnosis: Kidney Disease

Older cats are especially at risk for chronic renal failure. Here’s what you need to know about this deadly threat.

Your cat’s kidneys play a central role in almost all of its bodily processes. They help to control the blood pressure and regulate the amount and chemical consistency of fluid in the bloodstream. They produce a variety of vitally needed hormones and enzymes, and they contribute to the production of red blood cells. They also remove metabolic waste, such as urea, mineral salts and poisonous substances, from its blood. This is accomplished by kidney (renal) tissue containing hundreds of thousands of tiny filtration units called nephrons. When waste-laden blood enters the kidneys through the renal artery, it moves through progressively smaller vessels until it reaches these nephrons, where it is filtered through microscopically minute structures called glomeruli. The cleansed blood — about 95 percent of the total fluid volume that originally entered the kidneys — then circulates back to the heart for yet another voyage through the body. Meanwhile, the remaining fluid, containing the waste products, is passed along as urine from the kidneys to the bladder and eventually excreted.

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