New Test to Detect Early Kidney Disease | News | Hill's Transforming Lives

New Test to Detect Early Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is not only a problem for people. Chronic kidney disease is a serious health problem for dogs and the second leading cause of non-accidental death in cats (after cancer). Until recently, clinical diagnosis in cats and dogs was usually possible only once three-quarters of kidney function was lost. Now, thanks to a revolutionary new kidney function test, it can be detected months, even years, earlier. 

The IDEXX SDMA test, measures levels of symmetric dimethylarginine, an amino acid by-product excreted by the kidneys. Increased levels of SDMA can be detected when there is between 25% to 40% loss of kidney function – a dramatic improvement on the traditional creatinine test, which only detected damage once an alarming 75% of kidney function had been lost.

Kidney damage is irreversible and can be caused by infections, toxins, trauma, food and age (wear and tear); the incidence increases significantly in pets aged seven years and older. Symptoms, which unfortunately are usually only evident to the owner once significant kidney damage has occurred, include increased thirst and urination, reduced appetite, weight loss, bad breath, vomiting, diarrhoea, a sore mouth, weakness and sleeping more than usual.

“Kidney disease is a slow and silent killer, wearing down the kidneys just like the tread on car tyres, reducing their ability to do their job properly,” explains Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary advisor for Hill’s Pet Nutrition South Africa. “A yearly senior screening for pets older than seven is probably the single most important thing owners can do to keep their pet well for longer.”

“The kidneys can’t be repaired,” says Dr Fyvie. “However, with earlier detection pets can be better managed so that they enjoy longer and better quality lives.”

The most effective management for kidney disease, indeed the only management clinically proven to extend life and improve well-being, is a special kidney foodHill’s Prescription Diet k/d. This therapeutic food has carefully controlled levels of protein, phosphorous and salt, ingredients found in high levels in many pet foods, and associated with accelerating kidney damage.

“If your pet is showing any symptoms, or just getting a little grey around the whiskers, it is worth having their kidneys checked – even if just for peace of mind,” says Dr Fyvie.

The new IDEXX SDMA test is available as part of routine kidney screenings at vets in South Africa from March. For further information speak to your veterinarian.



  1. Yerramilli M, Yerramilli M, Obare E, Jewell DE, Hall JA. Symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA) increases earlier than serum creatinine in dogs with chronic kidney disease (CKD). [ACVIM Abstract NU-42]. J Vet Intern Med. 2014;28
  2. Hall JA, Yerramilli M, Obare E, Yerramilli M, Yu S, Jewell DE. Comparison of serum concentrations of symmetric dimethylarginine and creatinine as kidney function biomarkers in healthy geriatric cats fed reduced protein foods enriched with fish oil, L-carnitine, and medium-chain triglycerides. Vet J. 2014;202(3):588–596.
  3. Ross SJ, Osborne CA, Kirk CA, et al. Clinical evaluation of dietary modification for treatment of spontaneous chronic kidney disease in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006;229: 949-957.
  1. Higher prevalence of kidney disease: Marino CL, Lascelles BD, Vaden SL, Gruen ME, Marks SL. The prevalence and classification of chronic kidney disease in cats randomly selected from four age groups and in cats recruited for degenerative joint disease studies. J Feline Med Surg. 2014;16(6):465–472.
Date Published: 23 February 2022