We all want our cats to grow old. Unfortunately as they do, few escape chronic kidney disease (CKD)—so common in older cats, it’s considered practically inevitable.

Catching CKD early can improve overall lifespan, and more importantly enhance overall quality of life. To this point veterinarians have depended upon routine blood work, which catches kidney disease after about three-fourths of function is already gone. By the time cat owners report symptoms, matters are even worse.

A new test

A revolutionary new blood test, symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA), allows veterinarians to diagnose CKD in cats months or even years earlier, giving owners a chance to intervene well before their cat’s kidneys are as damaged.

"It’s whorthwile to check in with your veterinarian about a heartworm preventative, even for indoor cats, because mosquitoes can get indoors, too."

“Diagnosing CKD earlier allows us to monitor these cats more carefully and if it’s appropriate we can begin to treat them,” says Dr. Susan Little, President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and editor of “The Cat: Clinical Medicine and Management.”

Little adds there are various other benefits to early diagnosis. For example, high blood pressure is common among cats with CKD. As with humans this disease is silent, but it takes considerable effort to read in cats. Knowing a cat has CKD, vets may be more inclined to check up on blood pressure.

Important checkups

But you cannot test for kidney disease—or for that matter anything else—without a checkup. “I just had a client today who purchased a cat online, and she never tested her for the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia,” Little explains. ”As a result, [she] unknowingly exposed her other cats.”

Even when adopting shelter cats that have had a test for FIV and feline leukemia, Little says getting a second test is the appropriate protocol, as cats may go for months or years without showing any symptoms.

Warding off heartworm           

Cat owners may also be unaware to test for feline heartworm disease transmitted by mosquitoes. “If there is heartworm disease in dogs where you live, there’s also heartworm occurring in cats,” Little says. ”Testing is important.”

Although some cats with heartworm are asymptomatic, cats can die suddenly from heartworm or suffer from feline associated respiratory disease—sometimes mistaken for feline asthma. As a result, it’s whorthwile to check in with your veterinarian about a heartworm preventative, even for indoor cats, because mosquitoes can get indoors, too.