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Keeping kitty kidneys healthy

By Amy Ettinger

research looks at early detection

Chronic kidney disease is one of the most common diseases in older cats, and it is consistently the top health concern among Morris Animal Foundation’s cat health supporters. Feline kidney problems are diagnosed with blood and urine tests, but most standard tests aren’t very sensitive. By the time these tests are able to detect disease, the sick cat has usually lost about 70 percent of its kidney function, making effective treatment difficult. The iohexol clearance test is a more accurate method, but it is invasive, time consuming and costly.

With Foundation funding, scientists at two research institutions are looking at new ways to indicate the disease.

Researchers at Massey University in New Zealand are studying whether a simple urine test measuring the levels of certain naturally occurring chemical compounds can accurately diagnose early renal disease. In a small sample of 10 cats, they found that this measurement appeared to correlate well with renal status as determined by the iohexol clearance test, according to Dr. Kay Rutherfurd-Markwick, a senior researcher.

The scientists plan to continue the research to determine whether the measurement of urinary metabolites can diagnose renal disease before clinical signs are apparent. They also hope to study whether dietary intervention, a common way of managing the disease, actually helps cats with chronic renal disease.

“Until there is a cheap, specific and reliable test that can detect kidney disease earlier, we will not know if early intervention, such as certain changes to the diet, slows or even prevents the otherwise inevitable progression into kidney failure,” says Dr. Rutherfurd-Markwick.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are investigating another new tool that will help to identify early kidney disease in cats.

“We need an easier way to measure the health of the kidneys,” says Dr. Mieke Baan, clinical instructor at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UW–Madison.

The researchers are measuring the ability of the kidneys to remove a natural marker, inulin, from the bloodstream. Their goal is to find a new, dependable and safe protocol for diagnosing kidney problems with just two blood samples.

This method can then be used to identify cats at risk for renal problems following hyperthyroidism treatment. Older cats often suffer from hyperthyroidism, a condition that can be treated with medication, surgery or radioactive-iodine therapy. Unfortunately, many cats suffer from decreased kidney function after treatment.

“It’s important for owners to know whether a cat has underlying kidney dysfunction before it is treated for hyperthyroidism,” says Dr. Baan.

These two studies could help to significantly improve the health and quality of life of older cats who suffer from this difficult-to-diagnose problem.

Posted by on March 1, 2011.

Categories: Cat diseases, Cat health, Feline health


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Submitted by Marie M. Dunnam at: April 13, 2011
Early detection of chronic kidney disease would be a miracle!! I lost my 19 1/2 year old baby 'Pinky" on November 9, 2010, and both she and her brother were diagnosed with this disease in 2003. They were started on the Science Diet KD at that time and did fine for a long time, with quarterly blood tests, and toward the last, subQ fluids. My heart is still breaking as I lost both of them, "Chin" in April 2009, and "Pinky" in November 2010.
Submitted by Morris Animal Foundation at: March 2, 2011
Stephanie: Thank you for your question, inulin is correct. Inulin is a non-digestible sugar that is excreted in the urine. Because it is not digested, it can be used to measure kidney function by giving inulin, measuring the amount in the blood, waiting a defined period, then re-measure the amount in blood. The difference in amounts of inulin is the amount cleared by the kidney in the defined time period (which provides the measurement of kidney function).
Submitted by Susan at: March 2, 2011
I'm so glad to see that early detection, and possibly early intervention, related to feline renal failure is a top priority. Every senior cat my husband and I have lived with, and dearly loved, through the years was tragically lost to kidney failure. One of our three current cats has been diagnosed with early kidney disease, a very devastating diagnosis. New means of early detection coupled with effective treatments cannot come too soon.
Submitted by Stephanie, in St. Louis, MO at: March 1, 2011
in the sentence from the above: "The researchers are measuring the ability of the kidneys to remove a natural marker, inulin, from the bloodstream.", Do you mean: insulin?