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As pet owners, we all remember the excitement of bringing our animal home for the first time. Then our little kitten or puppy grew up, and before we knew it, we had a pet approaching the senior age group.


For all pet owners, it’s worthwhile being able to recognize the signs of some common diseases. Today we’ll look at kidney disease, or chronic renal failure (CRF).


CRF is most commonly the result of general ageing of the kidneys, but can be triggered by infections, stones, tumours, toxins and immune-mediated diseases. We see it in both dogs and cats, with cats being more commonly affected. Although we view CRF as a condition of older pets, from time to time we recognise it in all ages of animal.


The early signs of CRF can be very subtle, and may be no more than unintended weight loss. As the disease progresses, the signs become more obvious, and these are an increase in water intake and urination, decreased energy, a gradual reduction in appetite, and loss of body condition. In advanced CRF, gastric signs like vomiting or diarrhea can occur.


Like many disease of the older pet, the early signs are often attributed to “getting older”. However the best initial diagnostic tool you can apply to your pet to look for CRF is observation and not ignoring changes. Monitoring weight is useful, as is measuring the average amount of water your pet is drinking over a 24-hour period. Your vet can calculate the expected daily intake.


To confirm CRF we use blood & urine testing. Most veterinarians agree though, this is best done as a screening tool before any symptoms have appeared. The yearly visit is a great time to have a sample taken just for that peace of mind.


The treatment options for CRF are good. Although we cannot reverse the ageing process (wouldn’t that be nice!), we can slow further ageing with dietary manipulation, and we can manage some of the secondary changes, like high blood pressure and urinary protein loss.

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