Kidney or renal disease is the leading cause of death in older cats and second only to cancer in dog mortality.
There are several symptoms to look for. The most common is your pet drinking and/or urinating a lot. Other manifestations include bloody urine, vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite, weight loss and lethargy.
As the disease progresses, the kidneys don't function effectively as a filter, meaning toxins that normally would leave the body in urine remain in the blood.
There are several causes of kidney disease, including genetic or inherited causes, ingestion of toxins, infection, trauma and cancer. Damage can take place in multiple sites in the kidneys. The only way to diagnose the exact method of renal dysfunction is with a tissue biopsy. Ultrasound is a much less invasive way to view the kidneys and identify structural changes. Many facilities now offer this service.
Your veterinarian will want to run some tests to evaluate the health of your pet. A blood panel commonly includes three kidney-specific values: BUN, or blood urea nitrogen; creatinine; and phosphorus.
The suggested treatment for renal disease will depend upon the severity of the symptoms and laboratory results. Hospitalization is recommended for patients that are vomiting, depressed and not eating.
Flushing helps remove toxins and stimulate the functioning portion of the kidneys. For stable patients, a diet change and fluids given under the skin weekly can make a big difference. Nutritional supplements, phosphate binders and other medications may be suggested.
Kidney transplants are an option. In cats, a donor cat is identified by cross-matching the animals' blood types. The recovery takes from two to three weeks and means chronic medication to prevent organ rejection. The owner takes home his or her cat and the donor cat.
In dogs, renal transplants can be done only with litter mates. It can be so difficult to find this match that many referral facilities focus on dialysis.
If your pet has symptoms that could fit with kidney disease, go to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Julie Damron is a veterinarian at Sierra Veterinary Clinic in Stockton. Read all her columns at recordnet.com. Contact her at .