IDEXX aids in discovery of new biomarker to spot early kidney disease in cats

Aging cat--Courtesy of Oregon State University

Chronic kidney disease is one of the most common causes of death in cats, but catching the condition in its earliest phases can add months or even years to a pet's life. That's because cat owners can slow the progress of the disease through proactive measures like regular veterinary monitoring and specially formulated prescription diets.

Toward that end, IDEXX Laboratories ($IDXX) and Hill's Pet Nutrition teamed up with researchers at Oregon State University to develop a new biomarker, called SDMA. The scientists showed that the biomarker could spot kidney disease an average of 17 months earlier than currently used approaches--and in one case, a full four years earlier--according to a press release from the university. The biomarker could become the basis of a new diagnostic test to spot early signs of feline kidney disease.

The only existing diagnostic for kidney disease in cats is a blood test that measures creatinine, which is a muscle protein that the kidneys struggle to clear when they become damaged. However, the loss of lean body mass as cats age can result in naturally low creatinine levels, which can make the diagnosis of kidney disease challenging. SDMA, on the other hand, is not affected by changes in muscle mass, and therefore could be the basis of a more accurate test for the disease.

Once kidney disease is detected in cats, it can be managed with diets that are low in protein and phosphorus and rich in fish oil, antioxidants, L-carnitine and certain triglycerides. "Damage from [kidney disease] is irreversible, but this is an important advance, in that we should be able to identify the problem earlier and use special diets to slow the disease," said Jean Hall, a professor at Oregon State's College of Veterinary Medicine, in the press release.

The discovery of SDMA, which was made during a study of 32 healthy cats that was published in The Veterinary Journal, may prove useful to aging dogs as well, who also face a high risk of kidney disease. The scientists plan to continue their research into the new biomarker to further assess its potential, according to the university.

- here's the press release from Oregon State
- access an abstract of the journal article here