Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) in Cats

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is an inherited, progressive and irreversible disease which occurs most commonly in Persian and Exotic Shorthair breeds. Sadly it has been found that 1 in 3 of these breeds will inherit PKD. However, the more common practice of pre-breeding testing by breeders does mean that the prevalence of the disease is dropping slowly despite more needing to be done to breed the disease out completely.

Polycystic kidney disease is where multiple cysts (fluid-filled sacs) form within the kidneys. These are often present at birth and grow slowly over the cat’s lifetime. The cysts eventually compromise the function of the surrounding kidney and therefore result in kidney (renal) failure later in life. The rate at which this disease progresses varies in each case which makes it hard to predict life expectancy but usually renal failure occurs later on in life.


Symptoms of PKD mimic those of a variety of diseases particularly non cystic kidney disease. If your cat presents with any of the following it is a good idea to get your cat examined by a Vet as soon as you notice them to get an accurate diagnosis.

  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Weight Loss
  • Poor coat condition
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drinking more than usual (polydipsia)
  • Urinating more than usual (polyuria)
  • Vomitting
  • Seizures
  • Blindness
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Blood in vomit or diarrhoea

How can  I find out if my cat is affected?

Genetic testing is simple and quick to do and is very accurate at any age. If you are thinking of purchasing a kitten of one of the more commonly affected breeds, it is a good idea to ask the breeder if they have tested both the parents or the kitten for the faulty gene.

If you are concerned about an older cat and they are displaying symptoms of renal disease or PKD and ultrasound can be performed. It is a non invasive procedure which can detect cysts on the kidneys. It is much trickier to diagnose these in younger cats who may not yet have developed large enough cysts to be detected.



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