Kidney failure is one of the most common chronic illnesses in pets, yet many pet parents are not familiar with it’s warning signs.  Here’s a quick run-through of what renal failure is, what it means to a pet owner, and a brief “Renal Failure Test Results for Dummies” guide. 

Renal Failure’s Vicious Circle

Believe it or not, a pet’s body (as well as our own) is constantly producing toxins.  These toxins are generally transported to the kidneys where they are filtered and eliminated through the pet’s urine.  When kidneys are functioning properly, this is not a difficult process and large amounts of toxins are removed with normal amounts of urine.

Over time, as kidneys age and become less efficient, more water is required to filter and eliminate the same quantities of toxins (thus the increase in urination during kidney failure).  In order to maintain this regimen, the pet needs to increase it’s water intake as well.

Eventually, the pet cannot consume enough water and the toxicity levels begin to rise.  Some symptoms at this point are constipation, lack of appetite, and a noticeable loss of weight.  Unfortunately, these symptoms typically come along at a point where the problem is fairly serious…nonetheless, there are still things that can be done to improve the pet’s quality of life.

Veterinarians studying kidney test results

Veterinarian Test Results

When a pet is brought to a veterinarian for kidney issues, there are a variety of tests a veterinarian can perform which, upon examination, will provide readings that may reveal the specifics as well as the severity of the pet’s renal failure.  Here is some easy to digest information that will help you to understand the tests your veterinarian is performing.

Urine Specific Gravity - Measures the concentration of toxins within the pet’s urine.  A reading of less than 1.02 would be considered “diluted” and a reading of over 1.03 would be considered “concentrated”.  When the concentration levels are determined to be diluted, this is a sign of renal failure.

Blood Urea Nitrogen – Blood urea nitrogen is a toxin which is commonly filtered by the kidney.  Normally (with healthy kidneys), a reading of around 25 would be good.  Often times, a pet experiencing renal failure exhibits readings of over 60.  It is not uncommon that the reading can be in the hundreds with an animal that is experiencing renal failure.

Creatinine – Creatinine, like blood urea nitrogen, also is a toxin that should be efficiently processed by the kidneys.  A reading of less than 2 would be indicative of properly functioning kidneys.  A reading of over 4.5 would be a sign of kidney failure.

Phosphorus – A pet with kidney failure may exhibit heightened levels of calcium and phosphorus.  When these levels get to large, the pet will begin to experience inflammation (which can be irritable at the very least) and discomfort due to mineral deposits forming on the animal’s soft tissues.  The pet’s bones will also begin to weaken.  Through the use of certain medications and special considerations with regard to diet, calcium and phosphorus levels can be maintained reducing the advancement of kidney failure.

Potassium – Pets experiencing kidney failure will show such symptoms as a general lethargy or weakness…particularly a drooping in the head and neck area.  These are symptoms of low blood potassium.

Red Blood Cell Count – The production of red blood cells is initiated through a hormone which is made in the kidney.  If the kidney is failing, it will stop creating this hormone in normal amounts ultimately resulting in anemia. In the end, it's quite likely that if these test results come back positive, the veterinarian is going to recommend a treatment of some kind (as opposed to the contrary which is "do nothing" which will ultimately result in the accumulation of troubles and symptoms which is not good).  There appears to be promise in several holistic products such as Azodyl and Epakitin which are specifically formulated for kidney failure.

Image Sources All About Cats Health & Wellness Center – http://www.all-about-cats.com/renal_failure.htm Maddie’s Fund – http://www.maddiesfund.org/Funded_Projects/Medical_Equipment.html