New Blood Test to Diagnose Kidney Disease Up To 2 Years Earlier In Our Pets!

Hi Everyone!  I know from the title of this article you all are so excited to read this!  I am sure you have just been waiting for me to write all about Symmetric Dimethylarginine, otherwise known as SDMA, and what it is. (Don’t shoot the messenger…I didn’t come up with the name.)  I know that this may not sound interesting to all of you and that is totally fine, but what I do want my readers to learn is that in the past 3 months a new blood test has come out that is enabling veterinarians to diagnose your pet with kidney disease up to 3 years earlier.  This is providing us with better ways to treat and prevent further kidney degeneration, prolonging your pets lifespan.  So, if you want to skip through all the technical stuff, go for it.  But make sure your veterinarian is running this new blood test.  For all those who want more information and are interested, here you go!

What is kidney disease?

Did you know that about 1 in every 10 dogs will develop kidney disease in their lifetime, and 3 in every 10 cats.  In humans, as well as our pets, the kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood, processing the body’s protein waste and excreting them into the urine, as well as conserving and balancing body water, salts, and acids.  Kidney disease occurs when one or more of these functions are compromised or reduced. There are many causes of kidney disease, such as toxicity, dehydration, infection, immune-mediated disease, toxic drugs, or age related degeneration.  It is important for your veterinarian to diagnose the disease and the cause, as treatment options are different.

Typical clinical signs of kidney disease include:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Increased urinating and drinking
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy/Exhaustion
  • Reduced Appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight Loss
  • Bad breath and a chemical odor
  • Oral sores
  • Pale appearance

Unfortunately, as pets age, kidney disease is a very common diagnosis.  Many pets are brought to my veterinary hospital when they start showing clinical signs, which is usually at the end stage of the disease when there is not much more we can do.  That is another reason why I am excited about this new test.  By diagnosing the disease early, there are many steps we can take to help slow down the disease process and support the kidneys.

What are the traditional enzymes that detect kidney disease?

The main renal biomarkers that veterinarians and physicians use to assess for kidney disease are creatinine, BUN, and urine specific gravity (how concentrated the urine is). The problem is that we only see an elevation of the creatinine levels when 75% of the kidney function is lost. This means that traditionally, veterinarians are not able to diagnose your pet with kidney disease until the late stages.

What is SDMA (symmetric dimethylarginine)?

SDMA is a form of an amino acid that is released into the bloodstream when proteins are broken down.  The kidneys are almost exclusively responsible for eliminating this breakdown product from the body. We see an elevation in SDMA levels much earlier when just 40% of the kidney function is lost. This means that veterinarians are able to diagnose your pet with kidney disease much sooner.  SDMA is a specific biomarker for kidney function.  It is not impacted by other organs.  Creatinine, for instance, is impacted by the muscle mass of an animal.  So when your pet loses body mass because of age or disease, it will lower the creatinine concentrations and result in bad estimations for kidney disease.  This is not the case with SDMA and another reason why it is valuable and exciting for us!

How can my pet be tested and what does it cost?

Currently, IDEXX laboratories is the only lab that can run this new test.  In fact, when I learned about SDMA, I switched over to IDEXX just so that I can run this test on all my patients.  IDEXX is not charging anything extra to run this test with routine chemistry panels. This means my clients do not pay any extra to have this new test for kidney disease.  However, if I run the test alone (not with a full chemistry panel), I charge my clients around $45.00.

Why is early detection so important?

A recently published study found SDMA increases on an average of 17 months earlier than creatinine in cats and 9.5 months earlier with dogs.  This is an average and some pets are showing SDMA elevation even earlier.  Like any disease, the earlier it is diagnosed and made aware of, the more we can do.

Early detection of kidney disease in our pets can:

  •  Slow the progression of the disease
  •  Avoid certain drugs that may cause harm to the kidneys
  •  Provide more accurate and stringent treatment plans to monitor the disease process and take earlier action when needed
  •  Allow your pets to be placed on treatment drugs and prescription diets earlier to slow the progression of the disease and support the kidneys

I hope this article was helpful in learning some of the new and exciting medical advances in veterinary medicine.  Clearly, we veterinarians may be a bit more interested and excited about these topics, however, I love letting my clients know that we are improving the life and longevity of your pets, which is always our goal.  See you next week 🙂



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