Escondido, CA

What do I need to know about kidney disease?

Kidney disease is a significant problem in companion animals, especially older cats. The kidneys are remarkable organs because, although we and our pets are normally born with two, we can live long and full lives with one. Fewer dogs suffer from chronic kidney disease as the age, however, 35-50% of older cats will be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.

The kidneys are more than just urine producers. They help to regulate the body’s blood pressure, blood cell production, and water balance. There are two broad categories of kidney disease, acute and chronic. Acute disease happens suddenly, many times as a result of a toxic ingestion, prolonged dehydration, or low blood pressure. Chronic kidney disease is usually age related and is defined as abnormal function for more than three months.  Kidney disease is diagnosed on the basis of history, physical examination, blood tests, and urinalysis. Other tests may also be necessary to definitively diagnose the problem.

Traditional treatment options can include fluid therapy, dietary supplements, correction of underlying diseases, and more. Other options include holistic and complimentary care, stem cell therapy, and kidney transplants.

Clinical signs of kidney disease are wide and varied. They include increased thirst, increased or decreased urination, anorexia, depression, bad breath, and vomiting. It is crucial to have lab evaluations done at least yearly on all older pets because we want to find problems early in the disease process. Our usual testing procedures can only detect disease after 60-75% of the kidney is permanently failed. A newer test may help to detect problems with “only” 25% functional loss. Early diagnosis is essential for a longer and better quality of life. Please don’t assume that your pet doesn’t need diagnostic testing because he “looks ok”. Animals are naturally adapted to hide problems.

Your veterinarian’s life profession is to help your pet live as happy and health a life as possible. We’re here to help…it’s what we do.


“Ask the Vet” is a monthly feature of the Times-Advocate brought to you by Dr. David Knox of Companion Animal Clinic. If you have a question for the Vet, please submit it to:

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