TANYA'S

COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO

FELINE CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE

         

 
 

DIAGNOSIS: WHICH TESTS TO HAVE, AND HOW OFTEN

 

ON THIS PAGE:


Types of Test Available


Which Tests to Have


Frequency of Testing


Drawing Blood from Cats Who Hate Vets


Keeping Records


 

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Home > Diagnosis > Which Tests to Have, and How Often

 


Overview


  • If your vet suspects that your cat has CKD, s/he will usually run some tests to confirm the diagnosis.

  • The various test results will also tell you and your vet where any imbalances exist, which will help you to decide on the best treatments.

  • This page gives an overview of the various tests (which are covered in more detail elsewhere on the site) and explains which are the most important and how often these tests should be run.

  • The tests will give you some idea how severe your cat's case is, but they are not the whole story - treat the cat, not the numbers.


Types of Test                                                                                                      Back to Page Index


 

There are a number of different tests available:

Most vets who suspect CKD will run tests on your cat's blood, but they may also run urine tests and sometimes other tests such as ultrasound, especially if they suspect that your cat has kidney stones or an infection.

 


Blood Tests                                                                                                         Back to Page Index


 

These days your vet should be able to run most of these tests in-house and have results within a couple of hours, which can be helpful if your cat is very sick. However, it is unlikely that they will be able to perform some of the more specialised tests, and their machines may not be calibrated as frequently as in a professional laboratory. I do have most of my cats' tests performed in house though, mainly because it is faster.

 

Blood Chemistry Panel


This is the most common type of test run on CKD cats. This group of checks examines kidney function. It also looks for any other abnormalities associated with poorly functioning kidneys such as electrolyte imbalances (potassium), metabolic acidosis, and phosphorus/calcium imbalances. It includes other tests such as albumin, glucose and cholesterol.

 

Complete Blood Count (CBC)


This test, also known as haematology, examines the blood cells in the cat's body. This is helpful in determining firstly, whether a cat is anaemic, and secondly, whether a cat has an infection, both common problems in CKD cats.

 

Hyperthyroidism


This checks for an overactive thyroid, which is not uncommon in CKD cats. You may need to have the blood analysed at an external laboratory - the results can take between one and three days to come back.

 

Specialised Blood Tests


Elevated parathyroid hormone and ionised calcium levels, which can cause a lot of problems for CKD cats, can only be run at specialist laboratories or vet schools. The test for pancreatitis is also specialised.


Urinalysis                                                                                                             Back to Page Index


As the name suggests, this examines the cat's urine. This enables the vet to see if your cat is concentrating urine (CKD cats struggle to do this, so it can help to confirm the CKD diagnosis, though a low USG may also be caused by other health issues) and to check for urinary tract infections and protein in the urine.

 


Other Tests                                                                                                                                    Back to Page Index


 

Ideally all CKD cats should have their blood pressure checked regularly. Some cats may also need to have other tests performed.

 

Blood Pressure


Many CKD cats have high blood pressure (hypertension) which can cause blindness among other problems, so it is really important to check for this.

 

Ultrasound


This is not routinely performed on CKD cats, but may be offered if your vet suspects a kidney infection, kidney stones or a genetic condition called Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).

 


Which Tests to Have                                                                                         Back to Page Index


 

Initially some vets only test a measure of kidney function called blood urea nitrogen (BUN) or urea, or possibly BUN together with another test of kidney function called creatinine. However, if you get to choose which tests are run, I recommend that you ask for the following tests to be run:

 

Blood Tests:


 

Blood Chemistry Panel

Complete Blood Count

Other Blood Tests

  • T4

  • spec fPL is a specialised test if pancreatitis is suspected

Urinalysis


Other Tests


  • Blood pressure - not all vets have the equipment to perform this test but it is extremely important for CKD cats

  • Ultrasound - if your vet suspects a kidney infection, kidney stones or PKD.

I know tests can be stressful both for your cat and your wallet, but they are invaluable in deciding how to treat your cat most effectively. Not every problem is apparent from the cat's behaviour. Once you know what problems your cat is experiencing, you and your vet can tailor the treatments to meet his or her needs.

 


Frequency of Testing                                                                                                                 Back to Page Index


 

If you are trying to control a particular problem, such as anaemia, infection, phosphorus levels, potassium or metabolic acidosis, it is reasonable to test these every couple of weeks until you have got things under control.

 

Once your cat seems stable, I would recommend checking bloodwork, urine and blood pressure as follows:

  • If your cat is in early CKD (creatinine below 2.5 USA, 220 international), I would have tests run twice a year.

  • If your cat has medium numbers (creatinine up to 3.5 USA, 300 international), ask for tests more frequently, every 3-6 months.

  • If the disease is more advanced than this, you should consider testing more frequently, every 1-3 months. Thomas was tested every 3-4 months, but as the disease progressed we switched to every 1-2 months.

  • In all cases, check for high blood pressure regularly. 

Try to balance the need to run tests in order to monitor and control disease progression with the need to not increase your cat's stress levels unnecessarily, and bear in mind that taking blood too frequently can worsen anaemia

 

In all cases, do your own checks at home, e.g. regular weighing, monitoring of food intake. if your cat seems to be deteriorating or you have any concerns, you should seek your vet's advice regardless of whether tests are due.

 


If Your Cat Fights Blood Draws                                                                      Back to Page Index


 

Many cats find having blood taken very stressful. There are some ways to minimise this stress:

  • Stay with your cat whilst the blood is drawn. Many vets like to take the cat "out the back" to draw blood but this may frighten the cat, whereas a familiar face (yours) can help keep the cat calm. Catalyst Council has a couple of videos about examining the cat with their guardian present and tips on examining a fearful cat. However, as Vetstreet explains, some cats may be calmer away from their owner.

  • For cats who fight blood draws like our Harpsie, it can be easier to take the blood from a hind leg rather than from the jugular vein in the neck. Our vet used to place a towel over Harpsie's head and draw blood from the leg. You would probably expect a towel over the head to make a cat freak out more but many cats find it calming. Taking blood this way takes longer than taking it from the jugular but overall it still worked better for Harpsie. 

  • For some cats, the "clothes peg" method may work well.

  • Cats hate the smell of alcohol, so it is better not to dampen down their fur with alcohol before a blood draw because it increases their stress levels. It is unnecessary anyway unless your cat has a particularly weak immune system, e.g. s/he also has cancer. Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine explains why this isn't necessary for sub-Qs (the same applies for blood draws).


Keeping Records                                                                                               Back to Page Index


 

Not every vet routinely offers copies of test results to clients, but if yours doesn't, ask for them. They will probably be meaningless gobbledegook to you at first but don't worry, you will soon learn which are the important readings and what they mean. Keep your own records of your cat's symptoms and bloodwork results, so you can monitor trends and customise treatments with your vet's help.

 

 

 

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This page last updated: 02 December 2013

Links on this page last checked: 20 October 2011