Happy New Year! 2021 has just begun and hopefully, it will bring a lot more joy and positive times compared to 2020.

As everyone prepares for the new year, people create new year resolution plans to allow them to focus on a goal to become a better person. Some people may finish their goals, while others may not and deny that they had goals set in the first place. Regardless, it is time to face the hard truth; that is known as the number one killer of cats, kidney disease.

Kidney disease is one of the most prominent diseases in cats and is estimated to affect ONE in THREE cats and one in ten dogs. This disease does not occur suddenly one day, instead, it builds up slowly over time before the pet shows symptoms when it is a little too late. This is known as a progressive disease. There aren’t any indications as to which cat or dog may get kidney disease as it can happen to almost every pet. As such, recognizing the signs and providing a lifestyle to prevent kidney disease is essential to ensure a long and healthy life for your pets.

The main prevention to slow down or prevent kidney disease is to reduce the burden on the kidneys themselves. The easiest method is to provide more water in the pet’s diet to ensure that they are hydrated most of the time. This can be done by providing fresh clean water daily at all times throughout the household or even mixing in water into their food during feeding them as well. Furthermore, providing wet or canned food can also increase the amount of water they intake as the water content level is much higher in canned food than dry food. In addition to providing more water content for their daily intake, reducing the amount of protein and phosphorus in their diets can also help alleviate the stress on their kidneys. High phosphorus and protein in their diet will cause the kidney to require more effort to absorb and remove excess nutrients in the body. Thus, providing the pet with a diet that is slightly lower in phosphorus will help the kidney work a bit less. On the other hand, protein is an essential nutrient for pets as it helps them be healthy and strong; meaning reducing protein in their diet at certain life stages may not be the best idea. To help alleviate some burden on the kidney while providing the required nutrients for the pet, giving them high-quality protein food products will do just that. As the saying goes, it’s all about quality and not quantity!

Even though one may provide the best diet and hydration to their pet to try to eliminate kidney disease in their life, it sadly may still occur. As stated above, kidney disease is not a disease that can be healed; but rather, slowed down as the kidney begins to deteriorate. As such, not only is it important to provide a lifestyle to slow this progressive disease down, it is also crucial to recognize early symptoms for proper diagnosis at the early stages of kidney disease. A main symptom of kidney disease is that the pet will be drinking a lot more water themselves as this is to counterbalance the loss of the ability to retain water from their kidneys. Furthermore, since the pet is drinking a lot more water daily, they will also be urinating a lot more too. To observe this, it is important to clean your pet’s litter boxes daily and to monitor the amount of water they are intaking every day as well. Other symptoms may include sudden weight loss as the pet is beginning to lose muscle mass, vomiting as their gastrointestinal system is not hydrated properly to help move food through their system, and even halitosis, which is a bad smell from their mouth.

Early diagnosis of kidney disease is crucial in slowing this progressive disease down and providing a good quality of life to the patient. To accurately diagnose kidney disease, a general blood test and urinalysis will need to be performed. The general blood test and urinalysis will determine if the minerals (phosphorus, calcium, sodium, and potassium) in the body are retained and removed properly. If these minerals are not within their normal ranges, then kidney disease may be present. Another parameter that is measured in a general blood test is called SDMA. This parameter measures how well the kidney is filtering out these minerals and its function level as well. This parameter will give an accurate depiction of how well the kidney is doing for the patient.

Kidney disease is very prominent in cats and is one of the leading causes of cat death. Many owners are surprised when their cat finally shows the symptoms of drinking more water and sudden weight loss as these symptoms are usually shown by the cat when the kidney has lost more than 50% of its function. At that point, it may already be too late. Thus, it is vital to understand what this disease is and to provide the necessary prevention measures to ensure that if kidney disease were to happen, you as the owner can help slow it down and provide an early diagnosis so that this disease is not a burden to you or your furry companion.