Updated: Aug 30
CKD in Cats: Lucy
Lucy is a 21 year-old cat. Although she is an old lady, with the average lifespan for an indoor domestic cat being 10 to 15 years, she showed no outward signs of serious disease, other than the standard signs of slowing from old age. Her pet parent stopped the regular annual blood and urine testing recommended by the veterinarian for a few years due to financial constraints, and was at the point of having to choose the costs of daily life over the ability to provide the best care for Lucy; An unfortunate but common reality for many pet owners with aging animals.
It was at this point that the pet parent’s brother, a scientist at the University of Lethbridge, had come across a novel test strip that could screen for kidney issues in cats for a very low cost. He purchased a strip and mentioned that his sister should test Lucy to see if any kidney issues had emerged over the last few years. The test, Kidney-Chek™, showed a positive result, at which point Lucy was taken into the vet to get some blood and urine work done for a more thorough analysis. It turned out Lucy had Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), a very common disease affecting over 30% of cats over the age of 10! 
Thankfully, after this quick kidney check, the vet was able to diagnose the disease and place Lucy on a prescription diet and medication to not only increase her remaining lifetime, but also to improve her quality of life. 3 months later, Lucy is faring well on her new diet and medication, and her owner is thankful to know that her furry friend is feeling better.
What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?
CKD is a very common condition in our pets. Up to 1 in 10 dogs and 3 in 10 cats will experience kidney disease in their lifetime, with it becoming increasingly more common as our animals age . One study showed a prevalence of 80% in cats over the age of 15 years!  Just like you and me, our pets will feel the pains and sprains that come with increasing years, yet our animals tend to be more stoic and will often try to hide these pains, even from their beloved owners.
It is extremely difficult to spot early signs of CKD, which is especially problematic because the disease is much harder to treat at it's later stages. Because clinical signs are hard to catch in CKD's early stages, it is suggested by the American Association of Feline Practitioners that cats aged 7 and up receive regular blood and urine work along with an annual exam . Annual testing does two things:
When started early for mature adults, it gives vets a healthy baseline for blood and urine values. Since medicine is so dependent on the individual, understanding your pets unique baseline values is vital to detecting concerning changes as they develop.
When done on a regular basis, the veterinarian can use these recorded trends to tailor treatment plans as needed.
The development of CKD in cats and dogs differs significantly, and trends in the animal’s health can tell a lot about what’s going on.
Chronic Kidney Disease in Cats Vs. Dogs
CKD in cats presents itself with multiple progressive problems:
The first and foremost problem that tends to occur is a loss in their kidney’s ability to concentrate urine. This will show up in urine tests, as the USG (urine specific gravity) will decrease, indicating dilute urine. You may notice your pet drinking and peeing a lot more often, because the kidneys just can’t concentrate the urine enough, which can lead to dehydration.
Urea and creatinine are waste products normally expelled into urine by the kidneys, but if the kidneys aren’t working well, these waste products can build up in the blood and can be detected in the saliva.
Once enough damage is caused, a cat will get a ‘leaky kidney’, and protein which should remain in the blood leaks out of the kidney and shows up in the urine .
On the other hand, dogs will tend to get ‘leaky kidney’ problems first, followed by increased urea and creatinine in the blood and saliva. Since regular blood and urine monitoring can be pricey, many pet parents only get blood and urine work done once they notice the clinical signs of CKD, but by the time clinical signs start showing up in your cat or dog, 60-70% of the kidney function will already be lost .
If you can’t afford full blood and urinalysis on a regular basis, you can still do something to check for kidney concerns in your pets! Kidney-Chek™ allows you to screen for kidney issues by checking your pets saliva using an easy and affordable test strip. Using Kidney-Chek™ will alert you about kidney function concerns, and inform you that it's time to get your pet to the vet for diagnosis and treatment.
How Does Kidney-Chek™ Work?
Kidney-Chek™ monitors the amount of urea in your pets saliva. Urea can build up in the blood and saliva for multiple reasons, including:
Chronic Kidney Disease
Kidney toxicity due to ingestion of ethylene glycol (anti-freeze) or long-term use of pain medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Urea may even increase as a result of treating your cat for hyperthyroidism, as the treatment of hyperthyroidism can often unmask hidden kidney issues.
As the amount of urea increases in the saliva, the Kidney-Chek™ strip will change from yellow to green to blue, with blue indicating very high levels of urea and a need for further diagnostics to figure out why. To prevent further damage to the kidneys and increase your pets lifespan, it’s very important that treatment be started right away if your pet receives a high test result.
Treating Chronic Kidney Disease in Pets
Each pet is unique, and since the cause of each pets CKD is also unique, treatment plans will vary between each pet. Treatment may involve medication and a change in your pet’s diet to help improve their quality of life. Controlling urea concentrations in the blood can significantly help reduce nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and muscle cramps that can all be caused by a high blood urea concentration . The most important thing you can do for your pet is to catch CKD early and begin treatment immediately to prevent further damage to their kidneys.
Kidney-Chek™ Can Help
Kidney-Chek™ is a clinically proven diagnostic test and has been tested in over 140 animals in multiple veterinary clinics . The test is specifically designed for use in dogs and cats, and took the inventors a significant period of trial and error to develop. Dr.’s Hillary Sweet and Matthew Nickel are founders of the company, SN Biomedical, and inventors of the product. They both have doctorates in biomedical engineering and are committed to helping spread simple and affordable diagnostic tests like Kidney-Chek™ to as many pet parents as possible, so that they can provide the best possible care for their fluffy family members.
If you’re not doing regular blood and urine testing on your senior animals, consider performing a quick kidney check today. If negative, it will give you peace of mind about your pet’s kidney health. If positive, seek help from your veterinarian, so you can address serious health issues right away. Detecting chronic kidney disease and starting treatment will help your pet to live a longer, healthier life!