As our beloved pets get older, certain health problems will be more likely to arise than others.
A few weeks ago we took a look at thyroid problems in cats, but another good example of a senior pet problem is kidney disease, which is again, particularly common in middle-aged to older cats.
Like us humans, both dogs and cats have one pair of kidneys, left and right.
Each kidney is made up of tiny microscopic units called nephrons which are responsible for filtering the blood, and removing toxic waste products, some salts and excess water.
These then go on to be concentrated and known as ‘urine’.
But over the years, a proportion of the nephrons will get damaged, disappear and will never be replaced.
Other factors such as infections (leptospirosis in dogs), toxins (antifreeze, lily pollen in cats) and cancer will also speed up the nephrons’ demise.
Luckily the kidneys have excess filtering capacity with the result that the visible symptoms of kidney disease are not seen until approximately two-thirds of all nephrons have been lost.
As a result the kidneys will start to lose their ability to concentrate the urine, resulting in large amounts of dilute urine accompanied typically by an increased thirst; what’s known commonly in the trade as PU/PD (polyuria and polydipsia).
As the disease continues to progress, toxic waste products start to accumulate in the bloodstream, leading to loss of appetite, weight loss, weakness, depression, vomiting and even poor coat condition.
Bad breath is often a common symptom too due to the high blood supply to the gums which actually allows you to smell these toxins as they circulate around the tissues and capillary beds.
Symptoms of kidney disease are unfortunately very often hidden until the disease is in the very advanced stages.
However with regular check-ups the signs of kidney disease can often be detected at a much earlier stage – and before they become outwardly noticeable.
As with all illnesses, early detection is vital to establishing the most successful treatment options available.
Over in the States, pet organ transplantation is becoming more common but remains highly controversial. Who are we to give consent for an animal to donate a healthy kidney to another animal?
So here in the UK whilst old-age kidney disease cannot be cured, a combination of specially formulated diets (with restricted levels of high quality proteins and salts) together with new forms of medication, can often significantly improve the quality of life of pets with this condition.
So if you are worried about kidney disease affecting your pet, then please contact your vet today.