If Our Pets Could Talk – December 2023

One of the most common ailments in dogs and cats is kidney (renal) disease, a broad term that applies to any disease process that leaves the kidneys unable to effectively filter toxins out of the blood and maintain water balance in the body. In acute kidney disease, signs can occur quickly and can be very severe, while chronic renal issues include non-specific signs with the disease developing slowly.

It is estimated that approximately from 7%-20% of dogs will  develop this condition. This disease is particularly prevalent in cats, and is called chronic kidney disease (CKD), or Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) with a higher frequency in older animals, and a rate as high as 80% in the geriatric cat population. In dogs, CKD is associated with aging and the ‘wearing out’/fatigue put on the kidney organs. The age of onset is often related to the size of the dog. For most small dogs, the early signs of kidney disease occur at about 10-14 years of age.

Once a pet has CKD the changes in the kidneys are irreversible, so it is important to catch this disease early to lessen if possible its progression. Early intervention with its identification and treatment is to help keep  this chronic problem from progressing  more rapidly than it can.

Symptoms of Kidney Disease in Cats:  Clinical signs are often related to the severity of the kidney disease and underlying cause. Most cats will exhibit symptoms including: increased thirst and urination, intermittent vomiting, dehydration, sores in the mouth, white gums (anemia), foul breath, weight loss, decreased appetite, fever and decreased activity, urinary accidents, incontinence, or inability to urinate, lower back pain, edema (fluid-filled swelling in the limbs). Some cats may show muscle-wasting and signs attributed to high blood pressure, such as vision loss and weakness.

For all stages of kidney disease, fresh water should always be available. Drinking should be encouraged and adequate nutrition should be given daily. Your Vet may prescribe a kidney-friendly diet which may include feeding wet food in addition to kibble.

Your Vet may do a blood test to assess the function of the kidneys. An X-Ray and/or Ultrasound may also be recommended. These tests will help identify if there are problems such as a change in size /shape of the kidneys and bladder, a cyst or tumors present, urinary obstruction, stones, abscesses, fluid collection, infection near/in the kidneys, and help identify part of the cause of the kidney failure.

The symptoms that occur depend mainly on how long the problem has been present and the specific reason the kidney failed in the first place. If you notice any of the signs of CKD, take your cat to a veterinarian for examination as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and intervention are keys to maintaining quality of life. Although most cases of kidney disease are not preventable, regular physical examinations and wellness screening tests can increase the chances of early diagnosis and treatment. The earlier that any kidney changes are detected, the earlier that the appropriate treatment can be implemented it will  help keep your pet as healthy as long as possible.

For more information about Lake Chapala visit: chapala.com

Jackie Kellum

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