Did you know the world celebrates World Kidney Day every year on the 12th March? It’s a global awareness campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of our kidneys. In the animal world, the same importance is placed on our pet’s kidneys and filtration systems. The kidneys are often underrated when we think about our pets’ health. In fact, the kidneys play a vital role in the daily workings of their (and our!) bodies. They play a major role in maintaining your pet’s general health and wellbeing. Think of them as a very complex, environmentally friendly, waste disposal system. They sort non-recyclable waste from recyclable waste, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Kidneys are the unsung heroes of pets’ bodies, and perform a number of very important jobs, including blood pressure control, water balance in the body, cleaning blood from wastes and toxins, and activates and manages the production of Vitamin D which is vital for your furry friends’ overall health. So when they stop working properly, it can make our beloved pets very unwell. This condition is called Kidney disease, and it’s a very serious problem that requires a visit with one of our lovely vets.
What causes Kidney disease?
There are two different forms of kidney disease – acute (sudden) or chronic (long-term). The kidneys can be damaged by a wide range of conditions including injury, infection, toxins, and cancer. This damage sadly is usually irreversible. Fortunately, with early diagnosis and treatment, progression can be limited and many pets go on to live happily for years after diagnosis. Factors that can make dogs and cats more prone to kidney disease include the following:
- Degenerative kidney disease, associated with ageing
- Congenital abnormalities of the
- Bacterial infections - these can ascend from the bladder, or spread through the blood stream
- Kidney tumors
- High blood pressure
- Viral infection – such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) or Feline Infectious Peritonitis
- Amyloid deposits in the kidney
- Environmental factors such as certain chemicals, including certain disinfectants, antifreeze, lead paint and some human medications.
- Food- Some pet foods are high in phosphorus and dog foods with increased levels of protein can increase the progression of kidney disease.
What are the symptoms?
The signs of kidney disease can be difficult to recognize but if you notice any of the following, it could mean your darling pet has a kidney problem:
- Increased thirst and urine production
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Bad breath
- Vomiting and Diarrhoea
- Sore mouth/mouth ulcers
- Lack of energy and increased sleeping
- Poor coat appearance
- Sudden onset blindness (retinal detachment)
Unfortunately, the signs of kidney disease usually do not appear until 75% of kidney function has been lost. Once chronic kidney failure develops, it cannot be reversed. Early detection of any of the above signs can help to treat kidney disease and preserve the remaining functioning parts of the kidney.
If my dog or cat is showing these signs, how will the Vet be able to confirm its kidney disease?
Because many of the clinical signs can be vague and are symptoms for other illnesses, there are tests and procedures that will help determine if kidney disease is the correct diagnosis.
To begin with, a consultation with one of our knowledgeable vets will need to happen. They will do a general examination, but will also palpate your pet’s abdomen to evaluate the size and shape of your pet’s kidneys, as well as checking for signs of pain or discomfort. From here, they may recommend to do blood tests and/or urine samples. This is to test the blood of its levels of urea, creatinine, red and white blood cells and other electrolytes. The urine tests looks at the concentration level as well as checking for factors like bacteria in the urine. Additionally, a further test may be performed to check where damage has been done in the kidney. This is called a “urine protein creatinine ratio” (UPCR) and can guide medications to help improve your pet’s kidney function. An Abdominal Ultrasound may also be recommended to get a better view of the kidneys and to check for tumors.
Ok, so my darling pet has been diagnosed with Kidney disease, and it’s irreversible. What kind of treatment is available?
As we said earlier in this blog, though the damage to the kidneys is irreversible, there are treatments available that can help slow down the progression of the damage. If your pet is quite unwell, they will require treatment and stabilization in the clinic, requiring to be hospitalised on intravenous fluids, careful nutritional support, and medications. When they started to improve, they may be sent home with medications and prescription diet foods. These foods have low levels of protein, phosphorous and sodium, to reduce the workload on the kidneys. The food we stock at the clinic for this is Hills Prescription Diet k/d, which comes in both wet and dry form. If you’d like more information, call us at the clinic on 85314000. You can also check out one of our handouts via our website – Kidney disease in cats and dogs.