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Kidneys - old Beagle and owner - communitiesKidney disease is not only a problem for people. Chronic kidney disease is a serious health problem for dogs and the second leading cause of non-accidental death in cats (after cancer). By the time you notice symptoms – increased thirst and urination, reduced appetite, weight loss, or a lacklustre mood – up to 75% of your pet’s kidney function could already be lost.

Kidney damage is irreversible. However, if caught early enough, you can help slow it down and even extend the pet’s life. Now, thanks to a revolutionary new IDEXX SDMA test, kidney disease can be detected months, even years, earlier than was previously possible.

“Kidney disease is a slow and silent killer, wearing down the kidneys just like the tread on your tyres, reducing their ability to do their job properly,” explains Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary advisor for Hill’s Pet Nutrition South Africa. “Even though the kidneys can’t be repaired earlier detection means pets can be better managed so that they enjoy longer and better quality lives.”

The most effective management, and indeed the only one clinically proven to extend life and improve well-being, is a food – Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d – a therapeutic kidney food, with controlled levels of protein, phosphorous and salt, ingredients found in high levels in many pet foods and associated with accelerating kidney damage.

“Yearly senior pet screenings – for pets older than seven – is probably the single most important thing you can do to keep your pet well,” says Dr Fyvie. “If your pet is showing any symptoms, or just getting a little grey around the whiskers, it is worth having their kidneys checked – even if just for peace of mind.”

What causes kidney disease?

The kidneys can be damaged by a wide range of conditions, including infection, toxins, dehydration and trauma. Damage is usually irreversible. Factors that can make pets more prone to kidney disease include:

  • Age – the chance of developing kidney problems increases after the age of seven in cats and dogs. Chronic kidney disease is progressive with age.
  • Diet – some foods high in phosphorus can accelerate the progression of kidney disease. Most foods made with low quality protein, or with increased levels of animal protein are also high in phosphorus.
  • Breed – some breeds are more likely to develop particular types of kidney disease. For example: English Cocker Spaniel, German Shepherd, Bull & Cairn Terriers, Himalayans and Persians.
  • Environment – some chemicals, including certain disinfectants, car antifreeze, lead paint and some human medications, can damage the kidneys.

Symptoms of Kidney Disease

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Reduced appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Mouth ulcers / sore mouth
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Sleeping more than usual