This is a simple but really big deal when it comes to helping your cat live longer. This applies regardless of their age and I see this from two years old onwards. Elevated creatinine in your cats blood means your cat has some new requirements. Meet those requirements, and you have removed a huge roadblock from their health. For many cats, this equals longevity that can be measured in years.
People are devastated to find out that this was allowed to progress over years unchecked. I see this every single day in practice.
If you’ve never heard of this before, then you are in good company. I went to a recent pet expo filled with people dedicated to the pets in their lives. I asked if they knew what creatinine was. They mostly didn't. And it’s not their fault. Because the veterinary industry could do a better job of conveying these messages outside of our 15 to 30 minute annual appointments that we get to see you in.
In every industry, there is stuff that the professionals know, but you might not. Common place facts or daily events that will be news to you should you come across it, but it’s the norm for those doing it day in, day out. For example, If you run a modern big box movie theatre, you know you are not actually in the movie business, you are in the candy business.
Most of the revenue from ticket sales goes to the movie producers or studios. So as a customer, your primary function is to eat junk food at marked up prices. This affects the menu design, floor plan, and positioning of snacks in a theatre. You know all this stuff if you are in the industry. Not so much if your not.
It the veterinary field, elevated creatinine in your cats blood is the candy at the movie theatre. I know its there, I think about it everyday, many aspects of medicine or even surgery is planned around it, but it’s a surprise for most people when they find out.
So, what the hell is creatinine, and what is the actual significance of elevated creatinine in the blood? In a nutshell - if you're cat has elevated creatinine, there is a good chance his or her kidneys have become less efficient. Less efficient kidneys left to their own devices create a domino effect within the body. This can be silent at first for years, but through It’s domino effect, it goes on to create multiple health issues that you and your cat now have to deal with.
So this one, simple indicator can clue you into a cascade of potential events that could be affecting your cat. This is why it pays to know this. Many of these changes you can modify, manage or turn around, to your cats benefit.
So, you know the word VACCINE, but really, I would prefer that you know the word CREATININE. Elevations in creatinine are common place. As in 3 out of every 10 cats I see. You should their creatinine like you know that your gas tank light means put gas in the car. You should know it like your oil light comes and you get it checked before you drive another thousand kilometres.
Beyond a baseline level of care, you should know that creatinine is a real big win when it comes to longevity for many cats. This simple blood test should be part of their health check up. It’s all to do with quality of life and longevity. Remember Zack from my “Zack Vs Illness" video? Well I firmly believe that keeping his kidneys in check all those years gave him resilience to help beat that life threatening issue.
The reality is, many cats with elevated creatinine have CKD (chronic kidney disease). By the time you actually see it rise in the blood, it can mean 70% of the kidney function is gone.
But don't freak out.
That remaining 30% can last a lifetime if you know what you are doing and the domino effect is in check. You can put them in a "compensated state". You got to meet those new requirements that the body is requesting. It’s no different than us when we get older. We just have new things we have to do if we want to maintain ourselves. I would love to eat bread, gluten, pizza and milk, but those days are long gone for me (I can still do it, but my gut will inform me about it the next day…).
What do i specifically mean by “meet these requirements” ? It depends which of those dominos got knocked over. The earlier you found it, chances are less got knocked over. Solutions come in the form of changing their nutrition, supplements, medications, hydration and removing aggravating factors. Your work together with your vet to find your cats combination of requirements. They can live a very long time
So check your cats creatinine. It’s just a blood test you request during there health check up. It's often included in "wellness" bloodwork. Check it every year. Ask for the numbers. Cats with elevated creatinine from CKD can look normal, act normal, behave normal. But the key is that their bodies have some new requirements. You need good advice to figure out what those new requirements are.
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P.S. 1 - I kind of hate the term CKD as it can make people feel hopeless. Others call it chronic renal failure which I despise even more as it only fits a clinical syndrome certain cats go through (and it implies that you can’t do anything about it). I often call it “chronic renal insufficiency” when caught early. As in “hey, we found this on your cats annual bloodwork, and his kidneys, while they are working, have become less efficient at their job”. That fits a lot of cats I see.
P.S. 2 - This post and video is by no means an exhaustive review of the underlying causes of CKD or creatinine elevations into the blood. It’s more about waving the flag so people who are interested seeing their cats do better have the tools to do so.