Chronic kidney disease ([CKD] i.e., kidney failure, renal insufficiency) is a common diagnosis in senior dogs and cats, and the condition’s prevalence increases with age. Because the kidneys manage and perform numerous critical body system processes, this disease affects every aspect of an affected pet’s life and is a common cause of early death. Fortunately, through early CKD detection and treatment, our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team can help slow this progressive and irreversible condition, potentially adding years to your pet’s life.

How does CKD affect my pet’s kidneys?

The kidneys are part of your pet’s urinary system. These bean-shaped organs filter the blood and regulate bodily fluids by removing waste products via urine production, preserving and creating blood cells, and balancing internal fluid parameters (e.g., electrolyte ratios, circulating minerals, blood pressure). 

Healthy kidneys contain hundreds of thousands of primary filtration units (i.e., nephrons) that perform critical waste removal and regulating tasks. However, through age or sudden injury (e.g., toxin ingestion), these hardworking filters wear out, and the body cannot replace or regenerate them. 

When the nephrons deteriorate, the body tries to compensate by increasing blood flow to and through the kidneys. However, the damaged filters can’t keep up and begin working like a sieve, causing your pet to lose vital salts and minerals through increased urine output.

What are CKD signs in pets?

During its initial stages, CKD is virtually undetectable unless our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team performs specific blood work on your pet. As increasing numbers of nephrons are damaged, the body’s fluid regulation system reaches a critically unstable point, and signs manifest. Sadly, your pet will not exhibit CKD signs until 70% of their functioning kidney tissue is irreversibly destroyed, and little can be done to preserve and support their remaining kidney function. CKD signs include:

  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Appetite loss
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath (i.e., an ammonia-like smell)
  • Diarrhea

What is an SDMA test for pets?

Symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA) is a renal biomarker that the kidneys release into the blood during protein breakdown. Unlike other diagnostic kidney values, such as blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine (CREA), SDMA is specific to kidney function and only increases as a result of kidney injury or damage. SDMA also appears earlier than other kidney values on pet blood work, increasing with as little as 40% kidney function loss rather than 70% to 75% of kidney function loss. The SDMA test creates a window of opportunity for our team to provide your pet with nephron-preserving therapies.

SDMA testing is recommended for adult, senior, and geriatric pets and may be included in your pet’s annual wellness blood work. If your pet’s SDMA is elevated, our team will recommend additional testing, such as a urinalysis, urine protein:creatinine ratio (UPCR), blood pressure, infectious disease testing, and ultrasound imaging, to confirm and stage (i.e., grade) your furry pal’s disease.

How does early disease detection help my pet?

Although CKD is incurable, early diagnosis allows your Neighborhood Veterinary Centers veterinarian to reduce the kidneys’ workload and help preserve their remaining function. Early interventions are generally more successful, more affordable, and less invasive than late-stage therapies. Early CKD intervention strategies may include:

  • Diet — Normal protein breakdown results in an increased number of harmful waste products being excreted in the urine. However,  if your pet’s kidney function is decreased, these waste products can accumulate in the blood, accelerating disease and dysfunction. Reduced-protein, -phosphorous, and -sodium diets minimize unnecessary waste buildup and ease kidney workload while ensuring appropriate and balanced nutrition. 
  • Fluid therapy (i.e., diuresis) — Similar to humans’ dialysis treatments, pets’ fluid therapy removes excess toxins and waste from the blood by increasing the filtration rate through the kidneys. This can be a beneficial initial treatment for pets who have moderate to severe kidney disease. Our team can provide your pet with fluid therapy in the hospital through an intravenous (IV) catheter, or you can help your furry pal at home by providing them with subcutaneous (i.e., under-the-skin) fluid administration.
  • Medication — Oral medications are helpful in binding up excess harmful blood compounds (e.g., potassium), regulating blood pressure, controlling calcium and phosphorous levels, and supporting red blood cell hormone production. If your pet is exhibiting CKD signs, our team will prescribe medications to alleviate their nausea and stimulate their appetite.

How can I have my pet tested for SDMA?

Ask your Neighborhood Veterinary Centers veterinarian to include an SDMA test in your pet’s annual wellness blood work. This simple but invaluable test could help add months or years to your pet’s life.

If your pet is already experiencing CKD-related signs, therapeutic treatment can provide relief and minimize their discomfort. Schedule your pet’s wellness examination and SDMA test at your preferred southeast Texas Neighborhood Veterinary Centers location.