No time to kid about Kidneys!

Hello everybody! How amazing is this beautiful spring weather! It’s so nice to be outside with the fur-kids enjoying the sunshine and the warmer weather. It definitely makes it easier to get out and about!

This month our focus is all on our pets’ kidneys! Though they seem like a minor organ in their body, they can create big problems for our pets if something goes wrong. We’ll be talking about two main conditions that can affect our pet’s filtration system: Kidney Disease and Urinary Tract Disease.

Kidney Disease

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

What are the symptoms?

The signs of kidney disease can be difficult to recognize and can be the same as other conditions. They include:

  • Increased thirst and urine production
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath
  • Vomiting and Diarrhoea
  • Sore mouth/mouth ulcers
  • Weakness/lethargy
  • Lack of energy and increased sleeping
  • Poor coat appearance
  • Depression
  • 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.

How does the Vet diagnose 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.

In a consultation, the vets complete a physical examination and will palpate their tummies to see if they can feel the shape of their kidneys. They can also do blood tests and/or urine testing to help determine what is happening. An Abdominal Ultrasound may also be recommended to get a better view of the kidneys and to check for tumors.

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.

Urinary Tract Disease

Urinary Tract Disease can include issues like urinary tract infections, incontinence, and the formation of crystals in the bladder (just to name a couple!)

So what are the symptoms I should be looking out for?

Symptoms can include:

  • Straining to urinate and passing little or no urine - this can indicate a blockage and requires immediate veterinary attention! Call & make an appointment if this is happening to your pet!
  • Increased frequency and urge to urinate
  • Blood in the urine or cloudy urine
  • Incontinence (urinating when they aren’t supposed to)
  • Inappropriate urination (going to the toilet in the wrong place!)
  • Pain/vocalising when urinating
  • Excessive licking/grooming of genitals
  • Painful abdomen or lower back when being touched
  • Lethargy

As these symptoms can be similar across the number of urinary tract diseases, it is important to have your pet assessed and urine analysed by your veterinarian to determine the cause of the abnormality. Some urinary tract issues have no known cause as to why they occur in our pets (also known as being idiopathic), but there are some factors which can be in play. These include inability to urinate frequently (typically for pets who are confined indoors), lack or exercise, reduced water intake, and poor diet.

But have no fear! There is a way to diagnose and treat these conditions. The first step though is to make an appointment to see one of our lovely vets, who will perform a thorough examination. The key is to collect and test a fresh sample of urine, as this will tell us if the urine contains bacteria or other abnormalities. Now from experience, we realise that the ‘catching of the sample’ can be a bit tricky! Some pets will tolerate you quickly sliding a clean and dry container underneath them as they are going to the toilet, but others get a bit of stage fright! A good tip we have is to use an old soup ladle, as it’s less invasive and not as obvious to your pet. Cats can be a lot trickier to collect urine from, so luckily there is a solution for that too! Pearl litter is available from the clinic which is a clean, ‘pebble-like’ litter that can be used instead of normal litter to collect a fresh sample (and won’t be contaminated by normal litter). Once a sample is collected, we perform a complete urinalysis which includes checking the sample under the microscope.

What treatments are available for my pet?

Ah, so glad you asked! If caught early on, once examined by the Vet, they are prescribed antibiotics and sometimes pain relief. After the antibiotic course is finished, the vet will ask to repeat the urine test to make sure the infection has gone. If it’s not, they may need to prescribe another course of antibiotics.

If the issue is more serious, they may need to be hospitalised. For example, pets (in particular cats) can become blocked. Meaning, they have an obstruction in their urethra (the ‘pipe’ the urine comes out from the bladder in). If left untreated, their bladders can rupture, which sadly can lead to death. Cats that are blocked need to have the blockage cleared, meaning they will need to have an anaesthetic to have a tiny tube passed into their urethra to clear the blockage, and to make sure the tube is opened and urine can pass. Cats may need to stay in the clinic for a couple days on fluids to flush their bladders, making sure they can pass urine without re-blocking. Again, if caught early, this treatment can be avoided!

The thing with cats is they can develop urine issues due to the reasons we said above, but also due to stress. So it’s key to keep our kitties as stress free as possible. If you notice your feline’s urinating behaviour has changed, it’s definitely something to be aware of and to be checked out by a vet. Even if you’ve got a pooch who seems to not be able to control their bladder and do ‘little accidents’ inside, it’s a good idea to have the vet check out if there’s a problem with their plumbing!

The kidneys play a vital role in our fur-kids body, so it’s super important to monitor what goes in (one end) and out (the other!). We encourage any fur mum or dad to make a booking if they have any concerns with their pets. The best way to keep their filtration system happy is to pounce on anything that seems abnormal.