SDMA – Spells Kidney Trouble

Recently we hit on the value of routine blood work in a healthy animal. The benefits of this proactive bit of science just got bigger. SDMA, a new kidney function marker found in the blood, is growing in acceptance as an early indicator of kidney disease in our pets.

Used to be, an animal needed to become azotemic (their blood is polluted with waste products) before we could make the call of chronic kidney failure. SDMA is changing that. I’ll bore you for a second, so bear with me, because the take home message is significant.

Azotemia occurs when both the blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and the animal’s creatinine (Cr) increase simultaneously. BUN is a by-product of protein breakdown from the foods our animals ingest and the creatinine is released into the blood – at normal and constant rates – from the muscles in most mammals. When both levels rise in the blood, the general thought is that the kidneys are not filtering this “garbage” out of the blood. (There are other reasons this can happen, but for the sake of this blog let’s pretend your clinician has pieced together other tidbits of information and determined the kidneys are failing.)

Here’s the hang-up with azotemia; when it happens (in kidney failure) … it means that only 25% of the kidneys are functioning! In other words: One and a-half of the animal’s kidneys are not working! This makes the Veterinarian’s job of helping the animal quite problematic. Imagine coaching a football game where the first team to 28 points wins. Just before kick-off you’re told the game is starting with your team down 21-0. Miracles happen, sure. But everyone has a pretty good idea how the game ends.

Enter SDMA. An elevation in this value can alert us when as little as 20% of the kidneys fail. This is definitely a game changer. The pet owner and their Veterinarian now have a fighting chance to delay the inevitable and allow the animal to live a normal, productive life.

As a result of our pet owners’ willingness to consistently perform routine blood work when it was recommended, the Animal Medical Center of Mount Pleasant was selected to join IDEXX Labs as one of the first clinics in the country to begin using SDMA as a diagnostic tool.   The results have been phenomenal.

Catching kidney failure at 20% loss of the organ’s function rather than 70% means that we can begin to treat and support a patient even before they are sick… before the appetite fails, before the hydration decreases, before the weight begins to fall away, before the nausea sets in, before urine production changes… helping them live a longer, better life.

Making simple changes in diet and managing the animal’s hydration status NOW, rather than later, adds improved quality of life to every patient with diminishing kidney function. Now there is hope where it may not have otherwise been given; because you agreed with your Vet when he/she recommended blood work as a routine screening in your “healthy” pet.

Nicely done.

As recently discussed here, doing blood work on pets that are young and healthy is good medicine, and SDMA is the newest, best reason when your doctor suggests it, not to scrunch up your forehead and narrow your eyes before asking, “Why would I do that, he’s not sick?”

There are times when you have a chance to be on the offensive instead of reacting too late. Your pet has no say, but you do. You’re the coach, take charge of the game.

Thank you to Rachel and Tommy Devine for providing a picture of their dog Daffney. Daffney is a spayed female 4 year old pitbull. She came in for routine bloodwork, and the veterinarians noticed her kidney values were off. After her SDMA results came back, we now have a game plan to prevent early kidney disease.


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