August 2015 – The SDMA blood test helps identify early Kidney disease in pets

Chronic kidney disease is a major cause of mortality in dogs and cats.  Approximately 1 in 3 cats and 1 in 10 dogs will eventually develop kidney disease.

The risk of disease increases with age, especially in cats. Kidney disease symptoms are subtle and can go unnoticed for years. Most traditional blood tests do not detect kidney disease until 75% loss of function. Kidney disease many times is genetic and can affect pets at any age, but especially after age 7.  As many as 30% of cats over 10 yrs and 50% of cats over 12-15 years of age or older have kidney disease. Risks of silent kidney infections can further damage kidneys. Kidney infections also goes way up in older cats and needs to be found and treated earlier.


With dogs, although the percentage of dogs affected with kidney disease can be lower, the loss of renal function and sickness associated with it can be much more rapid than in cats once disease sets in or is noticed by owners.

Since it is not always possible to cure or reverse advanced renal function in our pets, early diagnosis is key. Our goal with kidney disease is to diagnose it as early as possible so that we can slow down the progression of disease and preserve the quality of life for the pet.

The good news is there is a test available called the SDMA Kidney Function Test developed by IDEXX that will help us identify chronic kidney disease much earlier than previous methods. Better yet, this test is not impacted by a pet’s lean body mass if the animal is old or in poor physical condition when tested.


Why is early detection of kidney disease important?

Once your veterinarian suspects kidney disease, they can look for an underlying cause and start helping you provide supporting treatment. Early management of the disease will slow its progression and help the pet enjoy a longer and better quality of life.

What is SDMA?

SDMA is a methylated form of the amino acid arginine, which is released into the circulation and is excreted almost exclusively by the pet’s kidneys. Therefore, it is a biomarker of kidney function.

SDMA increases on average at 40% of loss of kidney function when compared to the usual evaluation of creatinine, which decreases at 75%. This makes the SDMA test an important tool to use along with other testing methods of creatinine, BUN and urinalysis to help detect kidney disease and determine the stage. There are 4 stages of kidney disease.

Making the SDMA test part of your pet’s exam protocol

The SDMA test arrived on the market following an extensive pilot launch involving over 600 veterinary practices and after eight years of research and clinical studies that have culminated in the publication of 27 peer-reviewed scientific and clinical publications to date.

With early detection, your veterinarian can help the pet parent manage their pet’s kidney disease with a kidney supportive diet, renal-protective vitamins and medicines.  Also additional life-style advice and monitoring can really help. Tips like feeding canned foods and adding another fresh water bowl upstairs in your home can also really help these pets stay more hydrated, active and healthier much longer.


You and your veterinarian along with diagnostics are the best partners and advocates for your pet’s kidneys and health. Pets can’t advocate for themselves, so ask your veterinarian about screening your pets with this test.

Recommended Reading:

How fatty acids can improve your pet’s health

Nutritional Assessments for dogs and cats

Belle Mead Animal Hospital, Your Other Family Doctors

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