It has long been known that the inflammation and infection associated with periodontal disease can lead to damage to other organs such as the heart, kidney and liver, and lead to other serious health problems. Dental disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for cats: according to the American Veterinary Dental Society, an astounding 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3. A new study explored the connection between periodontal disease and the risk of developing kidney disease.

Factors responsible for kidney disease

Kidney disease is a common condition in aging cats. It is the result of a gradual decrease in kidney function. There is no cure for kidney disease, but it can be managed with supportive care. Early diagnosis improves the prognosis for longterm survival with good quality of life.

There are many factors that may be responsible for the development of kidney disease, including genetic, degenerative, infectious, toxic, environmental, and other contributing factors such as a lack of moisture in the cat’s diet.

Previous studies in dogs, cats, and humans have established a connection between periodontal disease and kidney disease.

Are cats with periodontal disease at greater risk for kidney disease?

The purpose of a recent study was to determine whether cats with periodontal disesase were at greater risk of developing kidney disease, and whether there was a correlation between the degree of periodontal disease and the risk of kidney disease.

The study looked at 2,383,820 cats, which were evaluated at least 3 times in an 11-year period at a group of 829 veterinary hospitals. The cats were excluded if they gave chronic kidney disease or acute kidney injury as a health reason at the time of enrollment into the study.

The risk of kidney disease was found to be significantly higher in cats with any stage of periodontal disease than in control cats. For cats with stage 3-4 dental disease, the risks of kidney disease were 1.5 times that of cats without dental disease. Differences in risk between categories were not statistically significant.

Not surprisingly, the risk of kidney disease also increased with age, with a 40% increase in risk per year. Purebred cats had increased risk compared to mixed breeds, and cats with recent general anesthesia were at increased risk. Cats with cystitis also had increased risks, and this was more significant in females than males. Cats with diabetes mellitus and hepatic lipidosis had a lower risk of disease than cats without.

The authors conclude that breed, age, and severity of periodontal disease are major risk factors for the development of chronic kidney disease in domestic cats.

While the idea that dental health impacts overall health is nothing new, the large numbers of cats enrolled in this study make a compelling case for the importance of keeping your cat’s teeth healthy from an early age.

For more information about the study, please visit the Winn Feline Foundation blog.

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8 Comments on The Connection Between Dental Disease and Kidney Disease in Cats

  1. A little late now as this article is old but just a note on this article as it caught my attention. My 9 year old had a checkup a little over a year ago and the vet missed dental issues which were found by a new vet a month ago and he had 4 teeth removed. The blood work done prior the surgery revealed he had early stage 2 CKD. So, I also believe these two issues go hand in hand after learning a little too late and I’m disappointed I wasn’t more aggressive with his dental checkups. He’s good, but now its learning which diet is right for him as I don’t want his muscle mass reducing based on a low protein diet, so I am nervous even though I have switched him the a lower protein k/d diet

  2. My friends cat was given antibiotics and pain shot at ER vet over weekend due to dental issue and we syringe fed her water and baby food. Now she’s at primary care vet who said she has kidney failure. Shouldn’t the ER vet have done bloodwork before giving meds? Especially since we know dental disease impacts kidneys? They should have know this.

  3. Do we know for sure that the peridontal disease CAUSES the kidney disease? Or is it somewhat likely that these are concurrent disorders, BOTH caused by improper diet? Cats eating dry kibble which is high in starch and carbs would be more likely to have kidney disease, and the starchy diet would also contribute to plaque/tarter formation an peridontal disease.

    • There are studies on the human side that link periodontal disease and kidney disease, but dry kibble definitely plays a part in causing urinary tract issues in cats, as mentioned in this article. And you’re right, dry food would also contribute to increased plaque and tartar formation, so it’s a double whammy! (The idea that dry food cleans teeth is a myth that just won’t die.)

  4. Interesting thought, and could certainly be some validity, but so many other factors could come into play. I think that medications given, look up metacam, which was sometimes given off label for pain in cats, and also I believe it is available as an injection. That can cause kidney failure. Would cats with periodontal issues have been given that medication or others that might affect the kidney? What about Convenia, which is supposedly safe, but you will find some great information on that injectable antibiotic at catinfo dot org.

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