Kidney disease can be very serious in cats; in most cases, it cannot be reversed. Two different types of kidney disease may develop in cats – acute kidney disease and chronic kidney disease. While acute kidney disease advances suddenly over a period of several days or weeks, chronic kidney disease takes several months or years to develop. A new test might help to detect kidney disease earlier than ever before.
In a study of 32 senior cats, conducted by researchers at Oregon State University, it was found that the biomarker Symmetric Dimethylarginine (SDMA) might be a more accurate measure of kidney function than creatinine. This biomarker was successful in identifying the onset of kidney disease in test subjects an average of 17 months earlier than standard tests. When this new test becomes available to veterinarians, it could lead to better management of kidney disease for improved prognoses.
Causes of Kidney Disease in Cats
Approximately fifty percent of all cats over the age of ten suffer from some kind of kidney disease. Unfortunately, the causes of this condition are not always clear. In some cases, it is the result of a kidney infection or blockage, but it can also be caused by high blood pressure, exposure to poisons or toxins, immune system disorders, and certain drugs (NSAIDs and some antibiotics). Certain diseases like feline leukemia can also lead to kidney damage, which increases the cat’s risk for developing kidney disease and other conditions.
Symptoms and Treatment Options
Kidney disease may present with different symptoms depending on the severity of the condition. Some of the most common symptoms for kidney disease include:
- Frequent urination or incontinence
- Increased thirst
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting, diarrhea, bloody urine
- Ulcers in the mouth, tongue, and gums
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Weakness and listlessness
To diagnose your cat with kidney disease, your veterinarian will need to perform blood and urine tests. In some cases, an x-ray or ultrasound may be required as well as a kidney biopsy. Treatment options vary depending on the underlying cause of the condition.
In many cases, the only treatment options available for kidney disease are those that reduce symptoms and delay progression. Often low grade kidney disease goes undetected for some time so with this new biomarker test, pet owners may be able to have their senior cats tested to provide an early warning of kidney disease.
For more tips on preventing or managing kidney disease in your cat, speak to your veterinarian. Suggestions may include a diet rich in B-vitamins and medium-chain triglycerides, probiotics and maintaining a stress-free environment at home.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian