Both dogs and cats may suffer from Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), although the condition is much more common in cats. Causes of kidney disease may be inherited or congenital conditions or may be a result of toxic, infectious, or other insults, as well as certain tumors. Most commonly, the initial underlying cause is not identified. Early kidney disease usually does not have any clear signs, but can be detected through routine annual wellness labwork.
Although progress of kidney disease can not be stopped, it can be slowed down. When early changes in labwork are noted, changes in diet, or addition of supplements may be recommended. As disease progresses, pets on a prescription kidney diet, lower in protein and phosphorous, can live up to twice as long as those fed a standard diet.
As the kidney function decreases, your pet will lose the ability to concentrate urine, so will drink and urinate larger amounts. The kidneys will also have decreased ability to get rid of the body’s waste products. Later in the disease, changes in electrolytes and blood calcium or phosphorous levels may require medications to manage them. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can also be a consequence. Eventually, your pet may not be able to drink enough water to stay hydrated. In this case, fluids may be periodically given under the skin, or hospitalization for IV fluids may be needed. Additionally, because the kidneys produce the hormone that signals bone marrow to make red blood cells, anemia may be present.
Follow up visits and laboratory tests are recommended more frequently for pets with kidney disease. Depending on the stage of disease, this may be every one to six months. Standard testing includes monitoring blood values, blood pressure, and urinalysis. Additionally, urine culture to assess for infection, and imaging such as x-rays or ultrasound are recommended to look for kidney stones and other abnormalities. Progression of kidney disease is highly variable and nearly impossible to predict. Those that are diagnosed when disease is already more advanced may only be comfortable for a few months, where those that begin treatment early may live well for years.