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Polycystic Kidney Disease: How to Prevent PKD in Cats

cat at vet
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is one of those rare conditions that occurs in several different species, including humans, dogs, and cats. Unfortunately, because cats are so much better than other species at hiding their discomfort, PKD in cats often goes unnoticed until it's too late.
Find out what PKD is, how to recognize it, and what you can do to help your kitty before it's too late.

What Is PKD in Cats?

cat vet
Polycystic kidney disease – otherwise known as PKD – in cats occurs when small sacs develop in the kidney and fill with liquid. Overtime, these sacs – called cysts – multiply and eventually begin to disrupt the normal functioning of an otherwise healthy kidney.
If left untreated, PKD can lead to kidney failure, which can be fatal.
Unfortunately, there is no external cause that pet parents can control for, such as environment, diet, or level of exercise. Rather, PKD in cats is caused by a genetic anomaly. Some cats are more likely to suffer from this genetic marker, particularly Persians, Himalayans, and British Shorthairs.
Because its cause is genetic, kittens are born with the condition and the cysts are present from birth. However, it usually takes several months for the condition to develop and be diagnosed.

Signs & Symptoms


Because PKD in cats affects the function of the kidneys, it often looks like other forms offeline kidney disease. Symptoms of PKD in cats include:
  • Increased thirst and drinking far more water than usual
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy

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In the most advanced stages, "it’s possible for the sacs to become so large and numerous that you can actually see the kidney’s outline when an affected cat is lying on its back," says Richard Goldstein, DVM, associate professor of small animal medicine at
Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
PKD in cats develops at widely different rates. While some cats may begin to show symptoms early in life, other cats may besenior citizens before they ever show signs.
That's why it's incredibly important to get your little one screened for PKD if you suspect she may be at risk.

Diagnosis, Treatment & Maintenance

cat at vet scan

PKD in cats is caused by a genetic abnormality, so getting your cat tested can help you determine if your cat is predisposed to this lethal health problem.
Thankfully, pet DNA test kits are becoming increasingly popular, which also makes the more affordable.
For example,Basepaws' CatKit offers DNA testing for catsthat includes a PKD screening for $95 (and they often run sales! At the time of this writing, their CatKit is on sale for $75). Many companies also offer lifetime updates, which means anytime they develop new tests, they'll retest your kitty for free and update your online profile with the results.


person holding cat

However, if you cat's DNA test results do come back as positive for PKD, the results won't be able to tell you the severity of your cat's condition or how it's progressing. For that, you'll need to see your veterinarian for an ultrasound exam.
Treatment & Maintenance
Sadly, there is no cure or specific treatment for PKD in cats. Rather, treatment plans are usually designed around monitoring the condition and managing the symptoms to make your kitty as comfortable and happy as possible.
If your cat does have PKD, there are several things you can do to monitor and manage your fur baby's condition:
  1. Talk with your vet and put together a care plan. This usually includes scheduled visits to keep tabs on how the cysts are developing and adjustments to other management techniques.
  2. Diet changes. Many veterinarians recommend a specific diet for cats with PKD and other kidney disorders.
  3. Fluid therapy. Potassium supplements or IV fluids may help your cat's kidneys do their jobs a bit better.
  4. Medication. While there is no specific treatment for PDK, your vet may prescribe certain medications to help treat the symptoms of the disorder.
  5. Use PrettyLitter. If your PrettyLitter changes color, it may be a sign that your cat's kidneys are not working as they're supposed to, which means it's time to visit the vet – stat!
  6. Surgical draining. In some cases, your vet may suggest surgically draining the cysts of fluid to help relieve the strain on the kidneys. However, this is a temporary solution as the cysts will eventually fill back up.
Have more questions about PKD in cats or other health conditions? Let us know in the comments below and we'll do our best to find you answers.


Don't forget to follow us on Instagram: @prettylittercats


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