by Sharon Wiesenhahn
The topic of kidney failure in dogs is one that is very personal for me. I only wish I had known about the SDMA test a year ago, when my foster Chessa first started having some health issues. Her diagnosis would have come five months earlier. Giving us an earlier start to her treatment may have given us more time with her. Kidney disease is common in both cats and dogs. Studies show 1 in 10 dogs suffer from kidney disease, and as many as 1 in 3 cats will develop kidney disease during their lifetime. One of the more difficult aspects of this disease is that often it is not diagnosed until a dog is in the later stages of kidney failure. This is because dogs often show no symptoms, or the symptoms are mild or attributed to aging — an older dog that needs to go out a few more times a day, or a dog whose appetite for their regular food has slightly decreased or a decrease in a dog’s energy level. As a foster parent who recently lost a dog to kidney failure, a timely and accurate diagnosis is critically important to prolonging and preserving your dog’s quality of life.
Standard bloodwork is important for every dog, as it provides a baseline of comparison and can often detect potential problems early on. The standard tests include BUN and Creatinine levels, which are measures of kidney function. Unfortunately, these tests have certain limitations. Creatinine does not identify kidney issues until almost 75% of kidney function is lost. Creatinine can also be impacted by issues other than kidney failure.
But there is a simple test that can be added to a standard bloodwork panel called SDMA. The SDMA test is a more sensitive and reliable indicator of kidney function than creatinine and BUN alone. SDMA can detect a 25% loss of kidney function, allowing the kidney disease to be detected much earlier. SDMA is also not influenced by other conditions, making it a much more reliable indicator of kidney disease. In fact, SDMA can help your veterinarian detect diseases of the kidney sooner or identify if a loss of kidney function is actually due to other disease, such as thyroid issues, cancer, tick borne illnesses, high blood pressure, and other health issues. IRIS, the International Renal Interest Society, states “the inclusion of SDMA values in the IRIS CKD Staging Guidelines is the next step in improving not only early diagnosis but also tailoring treatment of CKD to individual patients.”
At your dog’s next veterinarian appointment, talk to your doctor about bloodwork and getting an SDMA test. The SDMA test was developed by IDEXX, the same company that created the inhouse 4DX and 4DX Plus tests for heartworm disease and tick-transmitted pathogens. The earlier a dog is diagnosed, the better. While I can’t go back in time, I can do my best to share the information I learned so that perhaps another dog will be able to be diagnosed and treated sooner, giving their owner more precious time with their pup. After all, that’s what we all want.
Sharon Wiesenhahn is a volunteer and Director at NGPR.