Protecting Your Pet from Kidney Disease

Both cats and dogs can develop kidney disease, but it is far more common in cats.

Kidneys are bean-shaped organs that provide essential regulatory functions to cats and dogs. Their main purpose is to serve as a natural filter of the blood and remove water-soluble wastes, which are diverted to the bladder by the production of urine. They also perform other functions to keep the body in good health.  

What goes wrong?

Causes of kidney disease can vary. It can be the result of illness, such as high blood pressure, or be caused by infections or from obstructions like kidney stones. Ingestion of toxins such as medications or poisons can also lead to acute kidney failure.

Lilies are among the toxins that can cause kidney failure in cats. Even ingesting a small portion of the lily can be toxic to cats and without prompt treatment may lead to death.

Warning signs

Signs of kidney disease include changes in water consumption, changes in urination, blood in the urine, listlessness, vomiting or unplanned weight loss. If your cat or dog exhibits any of these signs, they should be checked by their veterinarian. Kidney disease can be detected through blood and urine testing.

Your veterinarian will determine with you the best course of treatment for your pet. Treatments may include fluid therapy, changes to diet, treatment of other illness or disease, and other care. Sometimes, ongoing treatment is required as the problem may need to be controlled rather than cured. Untreated, kidney disease can be fatal for cats and dogs.

Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer, AKC

But these costs can be managed with effective preventive care, which can ward off major illnesses and avoid high veterinary costs. It could even keep you and your pet together.

In a recent research study, more than a quarter of those who reported having to give up a pet due to a pet-related issue in the last five years, pointed to unaffordable medical care as the cause.  To combat this, there are a number of programs that provide free and low cost veterinary care to pet owners across the country.

We all want our pets to be happy, healthy, and with us for a long time, so here are some ways to provide your pets with the care they deserve, while also saving money.

1. Bring your pet to the vet annually

Your pet’s annual veterinary exam is not only important, but will save you a lot of money down the road.  Dogs and cats are great at hiding illnesses which may be detected during the physical examination by the veterinarian, and they need to receive appropriate vaccinations to prevent common infectious diseases. It’s much less expensive — and less risky — to protect against unexpected illnesses than to treat them.

2. Get your pet spayed or neutered

In addition to helping combat animal homelessness and improving your pet’s behavior, spaying or neutering your pet can help prevent serious health problems — including life threatening infections of the uterus, breast cancer and prostate disease. Many local organizations provide free and low-cost spay/neuter services. Search online to find an affordable program in your area.

3. Brush your pet’s teeth

Regularly brushing your pet's teeth can help prevent dental disease, which can require expensive dental procedures performed under anesthesia, and can lead to heart and kidney problems. Many cats and dogs show signs of gum disease at a young age because they aren't provided with proper mouth care. By starting an early dental routine, you can reduce your pet’s potential pain as well as your costs.

4. Consider pet health insurance

If the cost of an emergency veterinary visit or serious illness would be a financial strain, consider investing in pet health insurance while your pet is healthy. Having a sick pet is stressful, and pet insurance can help alleviate the financial burden. There are a variety of pet health insurance plans available. It is important to read the details of the individual plan to determine the level of coverage needed from regular preventive care visits to emergency care. The cost of veterinary care also varies greatly depending on where you live, so it is important to weigh the value of the plan against real cost estimates of care.

5. Buy well-balanced pet food

Quality pet food — formulated under the guidelines of the American Association of Feed Control Officials — is often more cost-effective because in the long run it will provide your pets with the proper nutrition to keep them healthy. Just be sure to avoid overfeeding your pet, which can lead to obesity and other health problems.

6. Groom your pets at home

Save the price of a visit to your groomer with regular nail-trimmings and brushings. Properly grooming your pet can also prevent life-threatening health issues, which can result from very matted fur. Regular grooming with a brush or comb will help keep your pet’s hair in good condition by removing dirt, spreading natural oils throughout their coat, preventing tangles and keeping their skin clean and irritant-free. Bathing with dog shampoo can be done on an as-needed basis, but no more frequently than once a month unless directed by a veterinarian. Some dog breeds with long fur require more extensive grooming to keep their coat in good shape. Although this is typically done by a groomer with electric clippers, a savvy pet owner can purchase electric clippers and learn how to safely groom their dog at home.

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