Does Your Pet's DNA Make Them Prone to Kidney Illness?

Does Your Pet's DNA Make Them Prone to Kidney Illness?

Breaking down the hereditary aspect of kidney illness

Kidney illness in cats and dogs can have a hereditary component, meaning certain breeds are genetically predisposed to developing these conditions. This genetic predisposition can lead to the early onset of kidney issues, sometimes even in young pets. 

Knowing the hereditary risks is good as a current pet parent and as a prospective pet parent. Taking proactive measures such as using screening tools like Kidney-Chek, and getting regular vet check-ups can help detect and mitigate the impact of kidney problems in your beloved pets.

How does a genetic predisposition to kidney illness affect our pets?

Onset: Animals with a genetic predisposition may develop kidney problems at a younger age compared to those without such a predisposition.

Disease Severity: Genetic predisposition can influence how aggressively the problem progresses and how severely it affects the animal’s health.

Response to Treatment: The underlying genetic causes of the kidney illness can affect how well the pet responds to certain treatments and management strategies.

Kidney-Chek's 1-minute kidney risk assesment to check if your pet is at high risk for kidney illness and get a discount code.

Common hereditary kidney illnesses in cats and dogs

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a common and potentially fatal condition in both cats and dogs, characterized by the gradual loss of kidney function. As the kidneys deteriorate, they become less effective at filtering waste products from the blood, leading to a buildup of toxins in the body. 

Vets usually prescribe a renal support diet with high moisture content, water-soluble vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants.

Breeds with increased susceptibility

Dogs: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Cocker Spaniels.

Cats: Persian, Burmese, Russian Blue, Abyssinian, Oriental Shorthairs.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is an inherited condition characterized by the development of fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys. PKD can lead to progressive kidney failure as the cysts grow and replace normal kidney tissue, impairing kidney function over time. 

There is not cure or specific treatment for PKD, management is similar to the treatment for CKD.

Breeds with increased susceptibility

Dogs: Bull Terriers are particularly susceptible.

Cats: Ragdolls, British Shorthairs, Exotic Shorthairs, Persians, and Maine Coons. 


This genetic condition results in the accumulation of amyloid proteins in the kidneys, leading to renal failure, and severe proteinuria which can be fatal. It is associated with chronic inflammation in pets. 

Treatment revolves around decreasing overall inflammation in the pet, which is thought to slow disease progression. 

Breeds with increased susceptibility

Dogs: Shar Peis and Bulldogs.

Cats: Abyssinian, Siamese, Orientals.  

Renal Dysplasia

This disorder is characterized by abnormal kidney development and can result in CKD. This happens during the development of the pets in the womb, so often they are born with this disease. It leads to a short lifespan in pets, of 1-2 years at most. 

Treatment consists mostly of symptom management, there is no specific treatment for it.

Breeds with increased susceptibility
Dogs: Shih Tzus and Lhasa Apsos.

Catss: Siamese and Persians.

Monitoring and preventing kidney illness 

This is not an exhaustive list of dog and cat breeds and kidney illnesses, so ask your vet about your pet to be sure. It is important to remember that lifestyle and diet factors also affect the likelihood of having kidney disease. Early detection and regular veterinary check-ups and blood tests are crucial and can prevent long-term illness! 

Kidney-Chek is an at-home screening tool that can be used to test for saliva urea. This quantity correlates with Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN), a marker that is measured by the vet in a full blood panel to assess our pets kidney health. 

Seeing symptoms like increased thirst and urination, weight loss, poor appetite, and lethargy can be too late! Make sure you get a jump on your pets health by being informed and taking the right action for your furry friend.

Making lifestyle modifications to slow the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life for affected pets will make sure you have the most time with your beloved pets. Understanding what your pet needs to thrive before adopting a new furry friend can be helpful for both of you, so you can spend time bonding with them instead of worrying about their health!


Check out our sources for more information!

 Glomerulonephritis in Dogs and Cats. (2024). Visit site here.

IRIS Kidney - Education - Risk Factors. (2019). Visit site here.

Amyloidosis in Cats | VCA Canada Animal Hospitals. (2024). VcaCanada. Visit site here.

Fitzgerald, S. D. (2013, July 9). Renal Anomalies. Merck Veterinary Manual; Merck Veterinary Manual. Visit site here.

Chronic Kidney Disease. (2014). Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Visit site here.

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