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Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

By: Dr. Arnold Plotnick

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Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is a slowly progressive, irreversible, inherited kidney disorder in Persian and Persian-related cats. Although reported in the veterinary literature for approximately 30 years, the disease and its genetic mode of inheritance has only been clearly understood in the last 10 years.

The disorder is present at birth. Multiple small cysts slowly grow in size, causing the kidney to enlarge dramatically. The cysts replace the normal kidney tissue, while kidney function continuously declines. The cysts can vary in size, from less than one millimeter to greater than one centimeter. The older an affected cat gets, the larger and more numerous are the cysts. PKD often progresses to cause clinical signs of kidney failure late in the cat's life, with the average age being around seven years, although the slowly progressive nature of the disorder results in some cats not developing clinical kidney disease and death.

Clinical signs of PKD are non-specific and are similar to those seen in cats with chronic renal failure of any cause. These include depression, decreased appetite or anorexia, excessive drinking, excessive urination, weight loss and sporadic vomiting.

There are two forms of PKD in humans: Autosomal dominant PKD (ADPKD) and autosomal recessive PKD (ARPKD). The autosomal recessive form of PKD is uniformly fatal in people at a relatively young age, however the autosomal dominant form (ADPKD) is slowly progressive and is similar to PKD in cats. Genetic studies in cats have shown that PKD in cats in autosomal dominant. This means that if an affected cat is bred to a normal cat, 50 percent of the offspring will be affected.

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