Chronic kidney disease is also known as chronic renal failure (CRF) is reaching epidemic proportions in our pets. It can affect both dogs and cats: 1 in 10 dogs and 1 in 3 cats are at risk of developing the disease at some stage in their life. (1) So why is it so common and what can we do as pet parents to reduce the risk of or slow the disease? To prevent kidney disease in people, we are encouraged to live a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and healthy diet. Yet, when it comes to our pets the information about prevention of this potentially deadly condition is sparse and inconsistent. This is incredibly frustrating for loving pet parents that want to do better for their pets – and the only way this is going to change is if we all work together to demand better for our pets!
Understanding Kidney Disease
There are two types of kidney failure: acute (ARF) and chronic (CRF). Acute kidney disease is a more temporary form that develops suddenly over hours or days. It may be a result of some sort of trauma such as poisoning, drug overdose, injury, kidney infection, rapid blood loss, kidney blockage or heart failure. If the underlying cause is discovered, the kidneys can be managed and symptoms of failure can be reversed. If cause is severe, it could lead to a chronic form of the disease.
Chronic renal failure (CRF) is a deterioration of the kidney tissue and function over several months or years. It is generally discovered at a later stage of development when a pet starts to present with severe clinical symptoms such as increased thirst, increased urination (PU/PD), weight loss, dull coat and/or low appetite. These are serious signs that should be addressed by a veterinarian immediately. Again, these symptoms don’t happen overnight!
Generally, vets will look at blood samples to determine the cause of the symptoms. Pets with renal disease will have high blood urea nitrogen (BUN), high creatinine and high hematocrit. Urine specific gravity will often be low as the kidneys lose their ability to concentrate urine waste.
Dr. Karen Becker DVM explains in great detail the nature of chronic kidney disease here.
Why Cats Get Kidney Disease More Often Than Dogs
The cat’s closest relative is African Wildcat (Felis sylvestrus lybica) who evolved in a desert climate. This produced some unique metabolic traits including the ability to conserve water. For this reason, cat have an extremely low thirst drive compared to other mammalian species. (2) They don’t drink water readily, even when they are dehydrated. This leaves them in a precarious state, especially when it comes to common modern nutrition practices for cats and by that I mean dry food!
Why Dry Food is Downright Dangerous
You can’t control if your pet ends up with kidney disease, but we believe that you can significantly reduce the risk by feeding high quality fresh food diet that’s in moisture.
The strong correlation between CRF and poor nutrition (3) (4) stems from a few key factors: