Chronic kidney disease (CKD) describes a condition in which the kidneys can’t keep up with their many jobs. Chronic kidney disease affects both dogs and cats and is a prevalent chronic condition of older pets. 55% of cats 5-20 years of age are positive for CKD based on IRIS guidelines, and the median age of onset is 9.5 years old. Inherited kidney defects can also lead to chronic kidney disease but are much less common. Loss of kidney function may be mild, moderate or severe. Treatment and diagnostics needed depends on the age of the pet, clinical signs, and the severity of disease.
The kidney is responsible for many daily tasks. Kidney damage or insufficiency involves the loss of some, but not always all, of these functions. The following are the kidneys’ responsibilities:
When any or all of these functions are impaired, clinical signs can result. Sometimes with mild kidney disease, these symptoms will be barely noticeable. It’s important to monitor how much water your pet is drinking and how often they urinate. Ensure they receive regular veterinarian visits to try to notice these symptoms early.
A diagnosis of chronic kidney disease is made when there are elevations in chemical substances filtered by the kidneys (such as creatinine and blood urea nitrogen), along with the inability to concentrate their urine, measured by urine specific gravity. To diagnose kidney disease in your pet, your veterinarian may recommend the following tests:
Medical testing can vary depending on the pet, their presentation, and their medical history. In some cases, your veterinarian may suggest additional testing to help diagnose your pet. Advanced testing may include:
Recommended treatment will vary based on your pet’s quality of life and diagnostic test results. Treatment may include some or all of the following:
Monitoring your pet’s disease allows your veterinarian to assess the effectiveness of treatment and make changes to medication and diet as needed. Although chronic kidney disease is not curable, appropriate support and diagnostics allow your veterinarian to tailor treatment specific to your pet’s disease state, and potentially slow down the progression of the disease, increasing the quality and length of your pet’s life.