Kidney Failure in Cats: When is It Time for Euthanasia?

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Whether or not you decide to euthanize your cat is always a personal decision.

If you decide to euthanize, deciding when to euthanize can also be a very difficult and painful decision.

The end of a pet’s life is very emotional, making clear decisions difficult.

Making the decision in advance will help you to not doubt yourself, which can lead to guilt and regret.

Making an early decision will also give you more options such as planning for your cat’s euthanasia in the comfort of your own home.

Understanding the final stages of kidney (renal) failure may help you better understand when it’s best to let go.

Let’s start with the symptoms indicating your cat may be dying from kidney failure.

Symptoms of the Final Stages of Kidney Failure in Cats

The most common symptoms:

  • Hiding
  • Anemia
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Mental confusion
  • Heart failure
  • Twitching
  • Restlessness
  • Dull, sunken eyes
  • Seizures
  • Inability to walk
  • Blindness
  • Body odor
  • Refusal to eat
  • Incontinence
  • Very bad breath
  • Reduced or no urination
  • Low potassium levels, high phosphorus levels, and very high urea and creatinine levels

Cats experience many of the above symptoms throughout each progressive stage of kidney failure.

As cats get closer to death the symptoms become much more severe.

Kidney disease escalates through four stages, and symptoms escalate as well.

Watching your beloved pet suffer more and more may become intolerable.

However, symptoms alone are not a direct indication your cat needs euthanasia.

A cat can appear to be moments from death, and with the right treatment, able to regain most of its health.

If you are able, exhaust all options, such as extended IVs and sub-Qs.

Your veterinarian can assess the effectiveness of the prescribed treatments by doing additional blood work.

When treatment fails to improve the blood work of your cat, it is time to start preparing for the end.

Deciding to Euthanize Your Cat is Personal

If you’ve witnessed your cat’s condition gradually decline, and the blood work is not improving, it’s time to make a decision about euthanasia.

Questions like, “How much suffering is too much?” will be on your mind.

Because you know your cat best, you are the best judge of your cat’s quality of life.

Your veterinarian will be there to give you the clinical perspective and provide guidance.

Ask your vet what they would do in your position for a more informed view of the situation.

A good veterinarian will always make it very clear, regardless of what they would do, the choice is solely yours.

Some cats will ultimately die peacefully on their own without euthanasia.

However, many cats will not.

The last days of a cat’s life are painful for both you and your cat.

Things can get quite ugly.

If you have not been able to make a decision in advance, it may become very clear to you euthanizing your cat is the most compassionate gift you can provide.

Euthanasia and Renal Failure: Knowing When Your Cat is Ready to Go

How renal failure impacts your cat may influence your decision to euthanize your pet.

Sadly, all cats do not respond positively to the treatment of renal failure.

And, most people don’t want to see their cat suffer.

So, how much suffering is too much?

Only you can make the decision.

Your veterinarian will be there to help you decide from a clinical perspective, but the decision is a personal one only you can make.

What makes the decision confusing is at one instance your cat may appear to be moments from dying, yet with the right treatment, able to bounce back and regain most of his health.

If you are financially able to exhaust all medical options and your cat still doesn’t respond favorably, euthanasia may be the best gift you can give your sick cat.

The best indicators of a favorable response to treatment are:

  • Good appetite
  • Normal personality
  • Strength and stamina
  • Minimal weight loss.

Most cats with renal failure will progressively lose weight over time in spite of your best efforts.

Indications your cat is not responding to treatment:

  • Hiding, acting differently, mental confusion
  • Sudden weight loss and loss of energy
  • Dull, sunken eyes or blindness
  • Refusal to eat and very bad breath

Blood work may reveal your cat has low potassium levels, high phosphorus levels, and very high BUN and creatinine levels.

However, I caution you against making the decision to euthanize your cat based on bloodwork results only.

Make the decision based primarily on behavior and physical condition, not on bloodwork results.

Remember, each cat is different.

With a thorough treatment plan and thoughtful care, you and your veterinarian can provide your cat with an enjoyable, productive life for many years to come.

You can successfully manage your cat’s renal disease for many years if caught early and managed appropriately.

Powerful Tools for Cat Renal Failure Challenges

There are several quick and easy changes you can make at home to help you give your cat an edge on easing kidney disease and renal failure challenges.

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