Polycystic Kidney Disease in Cats

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: February 22, 2018
Polycystic Kidney Disease in Cats

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While there is the popular saying that cats have nine lives, the truth is that their organism is susceptible to numerous different diseases. Many of the common diseases and conditions in cats are shared by humans; one of them is polycystic kidney disease, or PKD.

Polycystic kidney disease can be asymptomatic until it has advanced enough to pose a significant risk to the life of the animal. Therefore, it is very important that cat owners know more about this condition in order to diagnose and treat it as soon as possible.

In this AnimalWised article we will discuss the symptoms and treatment of polycystic kidney disease in cats.

You may also be interested in: Health Problems of Ragdoll Cats

What is polycystic kidney disease?

Polycystic kidney disease, PKD or polycystic kidney syndrome is a hereditary disease that is especially common in Persian and Exotic Shorthair cats.

The main feature of PKD is that it produces cysts filled with fluid in the kidney. These cysts are present at birth, but as the kitten grows the cysts also increase in size and may become able to damage the kidney and eventually cause kidney failure.

When the cat is young and the cysts are of a very small size, the animal does not show any signs of disease. The manifestations of the disease usually arrive later, when significant kidney damage has already taken place. This disease is usually diagnosed between the ages of 7 and 8.

Polycystic Kidney Disease in Cats - What is polycystic kidney disease?

What causes polycystic kidney disease in cats?

Polycystic kidney disease is inherited, and therefore it has a genetic origin: the anomaly comes from having an autosomal dominant gene. Any cat presenting this gene in its abnormal form will develop polycystic kidney disease.

However, this gene cannot mutate in all cats. This is why this PKD particularly affects Persian and Exotic Shorthair cats and the lines created from these breeds, such as the British Shorthair cat breed. It is not impossible for polycystic kidney disease to occur in other breeds, but it is very rare.

When an affected cat has offspring, the kitten inherits the gene abnormality and the subsequent disease. However, if both parents are affected by this genetic anomaly, the kitten will die before birth because of a much more serious condition.

To reduce the percentage of cats affected by polycystic kidney disease it is essential to control reproduction. However, as we mentioned initially, this disease has no symptoms until more advanced stages: sometimes it will not be known that a cat is sick before breeding.

Symptoms of polycystic kidney disease in cats

Sometimes polycystic kidney disease progresses in a very fast and damaging way in young kittens, and it usually has a fatal outcome. However, it is more likely that symptoms won't appear until adulthood.

Symptoms of kidney failure in cats:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • High intake of water
  • Increased frequency of urination

If you detect any of these symptoms you must go to the vet, first to assess whether the kidneys are functioning and then, if they are not, to establish the underlying cause.

Polycystic Kidney Disease in Cats - Symptoms of polycystic kidney disease in cats

Diagnosis of polycystic kidney disease in cats

If you have a Persian or Exotic Shorthair cat, even if it does not show symptoms of the disease, it is important that during the first year you see the vet to study the structure of the cat's kidneys and establish whether it is healthy or not.

Both during the early stages and when the cat has already shown symptoms of renal failure, diagnosis is made through an ultrasound image. In a sick cat, the ultrasound will show the presence of cysts in the kidneys.

Obviously, the earlier the diagnosis is made the more favorable the evolution of the disease.

Treatment of polycystic kidney disease in cats

Unfortunately, polycystic kidney disease does not have a curative treatment. The treatment for PKD is mainly intended to stop the evolution of the disease as far as possible. Drug treatment will work towards reducing the workload of the kidneys affected by the failure and prevent all organic complications that can arise from this situation.

This treatment, along with a diet that is low in phosphorus and sodium, won't change the presence of the cysts in the kidneys, but it can improve the quality of life of the cat.

Polycystic Kidney Disease in Cats - Treatment of polycystic kidney disease in cats

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Polycystic Kidney Disease in Cats, we recommend you visit our Hereditary diseases category.

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