The Real Deal: Managing Kidney Disease

Chronic renal failure, if caught early, can be managed through careful attention to a cat's lifestyle.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM

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A New Method of Early Detection
No one is sure what triggers the onset of feline renal failure. Once the process begins, however, it only gets progressively worse. Infections, inflammation, trauma, genetic factors and immune disorders have all been implicated in triggering the onset of renal failure. However, the inciting cause usually goes undetected.

By the time the dysfunction is discovered, the damage has been done. At that point, even a biopsy is unlikely to reveal the inciting cause. It would be ideal if there were an accurate, convenient and affordable way to detect renal disturbance at a much earlier point, because this would allow earlier intervention, increasing our ability to alter disease progression.

The kidneys selectively filter the blood. Albumin is an important protein that the kidneys normally do not let pass through the filter. However, when the kidneys are impaired, small amounts of albumin escape through the filter and appear in the urine.

Microalbuminuria (small amounts of albumin in the urine) has been shown to be an accurate predictor of impending renal disease. The ERD Healthscreen Urine Test, now available for cats, is a simple test that requires a small amount of urine. The test is performed in a clinic, with results available in less than 10 minutes.

A positive test (i.e. albumin in the urine) indicates that something is wrong with the kidneys and a search should be undertaken to detect possible causes for microalbuminuria. High blood pressure, dental disease, chronic skin infections and inflammatory bowel disease are a few common conditions that could lead to kidney inflammation and microalbuminuria.

If a medical condition is identified, it should be treated, and the ERD test repeated four weeks later. A normal result four weeks later suggests that the kidneys are no longer being irritated.

By detecting kidney damage early and treating underlying causes if possible, we may be able to reduce the long-term impact of kidney disease and give our cats extra years of quality life.

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Reader Comments

Janet    Bethlehem, PA

7/18/2010 5:48:03 AM

good article thank you

Richard    Dunkirk, NY

4/15/2009 1:35:22 PM


Thank you for this article. It has been almost two weeks since I had to put away my cat Chester. He was only two years old and it still hurts. Your informative article gave me some peace of mind, because now I know it was nothing I did or failed to do. It was part of his genetic makeup and chances are nothing could have been done to stop it. All of the symptoms of renal failure were there and it was as if I read a classic textbook scenario. I have a nine year old cat and he is as healthy as can be. It is nice to know what to look for. But just to let you know, I do not regret all the time and cost of his care. If anything can be learned from this, it is we have a large capacity to show love and concern for the animals of the world.


Elaine    Cirigliano, NY

6/7/2007 4:41:26 PM

Your article concerning feline renal failure was very informative and quite helpful. The problem that exists is that some, not all, verterinarians perform unnecessary testing which is costly and usually of no value in the final stages of this disease. My eighteen-year old, short-haired domestic male was diagnosed with CRF combined with hyperthyroidism. His appetite is not compromised but treatment, as is suggested in your article, was never recommended. Thank you for enlightening me.

Kathe    Lyndhurst, NJ

6/5/2007 11:29:30 AM

Thank you so much for this informative and easy to understand article. My 10 year old cat was just diagnosed with CRF and this is the first article I've found that explains what he and I have in store for our future -- and that has given me some hope for making that time as high quality as possible. Its also given me some ideas for questions to ask my vet during Esa's next check up. Thank you so very much!

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