A new biomarker discovery could help cats live longer

Scientists have developed a new way to identify chronic kidney disease in cats.

Researchers from Oregon State University have found a biomarker called SDMA that allowed them to identify the signs of kidney disease an average of 17 months sooner than existing techniques. They trialled it with 32 healthy older cats, and found that spotting the problem early allowed them to live for up to four years post-diagnosis.

Kidney disease often affects cats aged 12 and over and is one of the leading causes of feline death. Once symptoms have advanced, it can’t be reversed. But treating it with a special low phosphorus diet and supplements (including fish oil and antioxidants) can help them to live longer if the problem’s caught in time.

Until now, the only available test has been a blood test to check creatinine levels. This signifies that muscle protein is being broken down, but cats lose lean body mass as they age, so levels can be normal even when they have kidney disease. Early symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, and vomiting, which could indicate any number of conditions.

The researchers, who published their findings in The Veterinary Journal, hope to go on to develop their biomarker test so it can become a standard part of vets’ diagnostic tools. As well as helping cats, they believe it may also be useful for older dogs, who suffer some of the same problems, and want to do more research to confirm their theory.

Image via Chris Isherwood’s Flickr.

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