Chronic Renal Failure (CRF)

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Two primary renal (kidney) functions are:

  • Eliminate waste products
  • Regulate electrolytes in the body.

CRF results in the inability to effectively perform these tasks. In effect, pets affected with CRF become poisoned by the build up of these waste products. CRF is a terminal disease.

Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) - Agoura Hills Animal Hospital


Contributing causes:

  • Genetics – Certain breeds more commonly affected such as Abyssinian, Siamese, Russian Blue, Burmese and Balinese.
  • Environment – Outdoor cats proportionately more susceptible to CRF.
  • Disease – Congenital or acquired kidney diseases can lead to CRF.
  • Age – CRF is more common in older pets. This may simply reflect that if you live long enough something has to give out sometime and the kidneys are often it.


Most CRF affected pets will show some combination of the following symptoms:

  • Excessive urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Nausea and gagging
  • Licking lips
  • Grinding or cracking sound in jaw
  • Vomiting (both clear/foamy liquid and food)
  • Drooling
  • Dehydration
  • Hunching over the water bowl
  • Stomach irritation (uremic gastritis)
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle wasting
  • Emaciation
  • Poor hair coat
  • Halitosis (ammonia smell)
  • Lethargy
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Eating litter
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Oral ulcers
  • Detached retina
  • Convulsion, low temperature, coma (end-stage)


Several diseases may show similar symptoms. Diagnostic tests to verify CRF are Blood test and Urinalysis.

Typical findings on blood test are an elevated Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) and an elevated Creatinine and Phosphorous.
Urinalysis will typically show dilute urine.

Radiographs or Ultrasound imaging can assist in determining progression or other complicating factors.


Dialysis and kidney transplantation are rarely chosen because cost, availability and quality of life issues prevail.

Treatment is typically geared to helping the pet keep blood waste products (BUN) levels down. This is accomplished through a combination of proper (low protein) diet, medication and diuresis (fluid therapy). Many pet owners are instructed on administering subcutaneous (under the skin) fluids at home. This helps the pet feel better and avoids the stress of frequent visits to the Veterinary Hospital.

Other Information: 

There is no cure for CRF. Our goal is to keep your pet as comfortable and happy as long as we can. We don’t know if your pet will live for a month or years. It will ultimately be up to you to determine if the quality of life has decreased to a point at which prolonging life has no value. Naturally we will do our best as an advocate for your pet to assist you in these decisions.

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