Good kidney (renal) function is vital to our pets’ health and well-being. Kidneys are like filters – they take waste products out of the blood and excrete them into the urine.
They are also designed to conserve water and concentrate urine so we don’t lose too much water.
I’m sure you can imagine that if the kidneys are not working well, waste products build up in the blood and this can make your pet very sick.
Sometimes kidney disease is caused by an infection (like a virus or bacteria) or by your pet getting access to a poison. This is acute kidney disease.
In other cases the kidneys simply start to fail as part of the aging process or secondary to other chronic or hidden illnesses. This second scenario is what we call chronic renal disease and is particularly common in middle aged to older cats.
Often the initial signs of kidney disease are vague
Our mobile vets might get a phone call from an owner saying they are just a bit concerned because their cat or dog is not eating so well, seems to have lost a bit of weight and drinking a little more water. Of course there are many other diseases with the same symptoms so our vets need to do a bit of detective work to get to the bottom of the problem.
When we examine your pet we’ll sometimes find specific clues that point to kidney disease like swollen or shrunken kidneys and dehydration. But to make a certain diagnosis we need to do blood and urine tests. It can also be useful to check your pet’s blood pressure, and in some cases we might need to do x-rays or ultrasound scans to get a complete picture.
Treating kidney disease
If your pet is suffering from acute kidney disease due to an infection for example, they’ll likely need to stay in hospital for intensive fluid and drug treatment. They also might need supportive nutrition while their body recovers.
If your pet is diagnosed with chronic kidney disease it’s important to realise that this is not a curable or reversible condition but one we need to manage to slow down the progression. We’ll often recommend diets which are high in energy and have reduced protein and phosphorus to help your pet to keep their weight up but reduce the ongoing damage to the kidneys. If your pet’s blood pressure is high it’s very important for us to control that with medication. We might also offer treatment to control vomiting and other problems that can occur as well.
With treatment pets with chronic renal disease can enjoy many months and often years of good quality life.