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What are the most common symptoms of polycystic kidney disease in Persian cats?

Adopting a friendly and beautiful Persian kitty can be as challenging as it is rewarding. Like all purebreds, Persians can suffer from various hereditary diseases, including polycystic kidney disease (PKD), which can significantly impact the quality of their lives and have fatal results.

In this article, we’ll answer the following questions:

  • What are the most common signs of polycystic kidney disease in Persian cats?
  • What are the primary causes of PKD?
  • Is there an efficient treatment?
  • How can diet help alleviate the symptoms?

What is polycystic kidney disease?

PKD is an inherited disease that causes cysts on a feline’s kidney tissue. 

The cysts vary in size and quantity, depending on the severity of the disease. They’re hard to spot until later in life because they are tiny in the initial phase. The sacs are filled with liquid and typically multiply over time, causing significant discomfort. If not diagnosed and treated on time, PKD can eventually lead to kidney failure. 

Symptoms of PKD in Persian cats

PKD symptoms include:

While vomiting and lethargy can be symptoms of many different health issues, increased thirst and urination often indicate poor kidney function. Most PKD symptoms occur in felines older than seven. If you suspect that something is wrong with your cat's kidneys, visit your vet immediately.

Lethargic? Me? You must be seeing things…

Source: butters_thatsmee

Causes of kidney problems in Persian cats

PKD is caused by an inherited, dominant, mutated gene. The reason for its development is unknown.

Two potential causes of polycystic kidney disease in cats are:

  • Genetics—Since PKD is a genetic disease, one or both parents can carry the gene and pass it to their kitten. Even cats that experience mild or none of the mentioned symptoms can pass the gene to their offspring
  • Breed type—Specific breeds, primarily Persian cats (38% in the US), are predisposed to the PKD gene. Besides Persians, Himalayans and British Shorthairs are often carriers of this disease, as well. If a cat has the PKD gene, they shouldn’t be bred

Diagnosing PKD in Persian cats

The only way to be sure that your Persian has polycystic kidney disease is through an ultrasound. It’s the fastest, safest, and least invasive method (although cats can sometimes have an issue with sitting still during the test).

Besides the ultrasound, PKD testing usually includes:

  • X-ray (if the case is more severe, it’ll help the vet determine how much tissue has been affected and check the organ’s overall function)
  • Blood and fluid analysis
  • Genetic testing (it only shows the presence of the gene but cannot help determine the progression of the disease)

Treatment and prevention of kidney disease in Persian cats

PKD cannot be cured, but some treatments could alleviate the symptoms and help the kidneys function properly as long as possible. The treatment includes:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammation drugs
  • Painkillers
  • Appetite stimulants
  • Fluid therapy
  • Specialised diet

Draining the cysts can temporarily help ease the discomfort, but some vets don’t recommend this option because there are usually too many cysts to drain.

The only way to avoid PKD is to refrain from breeding felines with the gene. Before breeding, every Persian should be tested for the presence of PKD1. All cats who carry the gene should preferably be neutered or spayed.

Affected kitties usually get a two- to three-year life prognosis (in some cases longer) after the diagnosis. Before chronic renal failure occurs, symptoms can be treated and controlled to a certain extent. After that, the case becomes terminal. Since a feline’s immune system gets weaker with PKD, any secondary infection or disease can result in death.

My kidneys are fine, but I’ll take the appetite stimulants if you’re offering…

Source: butters_thatsmee

How to care for a Persian with PKD

Persians are susceptible to many health problems besides PKD. Typically, they have a shorter lifespan than other breeds, so you must provide them with proper care and a healthy diet. 

While PKD and most other hereditary diseases cannot be prevented, they can be alleviated with proper:

  1. Grooming—Brush your Persian daily with a wide-toothed comb to avoid matting and greasy fur. Clean their eyes and ears with warm water and bathe them once every two to three months, depending on how dirty their coat gets during outside play. Maintain their dental hygiene and prevent periodontal issues with healthy dental food. Daily grooming will promote cleanliness, a shiny coat, and overall health and make your fluffy friend feel more comfortable even if they suffer from PKD. Pay extra attention to grooming if you’re allergic to cats since Persians aren’t hypoallergenic
  2. Exercise—Persians have a limited threshold for physical activity because of their respiratory issues but can exercise in moderation. A daily routine will help prevent common health issues in felines, including diabetes, high blood pressure, UTIs, bladder stones, and similar, which can contribute to or worsen the symptoms of PKD 
  3. Regular vet visits—While healthy adult cats can visit the vet annually, kittens, seniors, and felines with chronic conditions like PKD must be monitored constantly. After adopting a kitten, test them for any hereditary diseases and make sure they get all the necessary vaccines (the rabies vaccine, the combination vaccine, and the ones for FVRCP, feline enteritis, cat flu, and feline leukaemia)
  4. Nutrition—A proper diet is crucial for keeping your Persian healthy and happy. Adequate portions of the right nutrients will help prevent or keep under control most health niggles

Okay, I’ll exercise this time, but I want an extra-long nap later!

Source: butters_thatsmee

How can proper diet help with PKD and other health issues

The crucial part of Persian cat care is knowing what they should and shouldn’t eat. Meeting their dietary needs will keep them healthy and happy. 

Every meal your Persian consumes should contain:

  1. Animal protein—Animal protein is the vital nutrient for your feline. Besides being the primary energy source, it ensures muscle development and proper organ function. Stay away from plant-based proteins derived from vegetables, such as peas, carrots, soya, and sweetcorn, because they don’t deliver essential amino acids (e.g. taurine and arginine). Your Persian would have to consume large amounts to satiate their needs which would likely cause indigestion and weight gain 
  2. Animal fat—Fatty acids promote skin and coat health and efficient immune function. Animal fat is also a natural taste enhancer and makes even the fussiest of felines who don’t like wet food run to their food bowl after one sniff. The recommended percentage of fat in cat food is up to 20% because overconsumption can lead to obesity and related health issues (especially in notoriously lazy Persians)
  3. Vitamins and minerals—These micronutrients help with oxygen transportation, nutrient utilisation, and enzyme formation. Felines get all the necessary vitamins and minerals from meat, so there’s no need for supplements if you create a high-quality meal plan

Wet food vs dry food—choose the right food type for your Persian kitty!

Dry food is affordable and has a long shelf life, but it’s full of carbs and contains too many unhealthy calories. The subpar ingredients often cause allergies and obesity

Kibble is also low in moisture (most dry food contains around 10% moisture). Since felines get most of their water from food, they could get dehydrated, which causes skin tearing, UTis, and kidney disease. It can also worsen the symptoms of PKD and accelerate kidney deterioration. 

Canned food is the best for cats since it typically resembles their natural diet, contains around 70% moisture, and is made of high-quality meat. 

Biscuits can be as occasional snacks and treats, or you can mix them with soups and broths to rehydrate them, but your Persian’s regular meals should be based on wet food.

Gimme the canned food! You can pass the kibble to the dog!

Source: moggy_grooming

Untamed keeps your Persian pretty and fit

Keeping PKD and other Persian health issues under control is easy with Untamed! 

Our food is free from iffy ingredients and all known allergens. It’ll help your kitty adopt healthy eating habits and maintain a good appetite. 

Every Untamed meal is:

  1. Rich in protein—Our products contain twice as much protein as the industry standard because they are made from high-quality whole meat
  2. Low in carbs—A low-carb diet will help keep your Persian’s diet-related issues at bay and control the hereditary ones. We don’t use sugar, cereals, and grains since they cause flatulence, indigestion, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, skin irritation, high blood pressure, and weight gain 
  3. Ethically made—All ingredients in our products come from sustainable suppliers, and our packaging is 100% recyclable 
  4. Made with human-grade ingredients—Depending on your Persian’s preferences, you can choose between our jelly and gravy products, made with chicken, duck, ham, tuna, sardines, mackerel, salmon, and shrimp
  5. Vet-formulated—Our recipes are created in collaboration with vets to ensure your Persian’s nutritional needs are met. We gently steam our meat and fish to preserve the natural aroma and healthy nutrients but destroy the pathogens

Order Untamed today to treat your Persian to the best food on the market!

What to expect once you switch to Untamed

After switching their felines to our high-quality, tasty meals, Persian cat parents have noticed the following positive changes:


The Untamed effect

The first week

After two months

After four months


  • Strong immune system
  • Overall better health

Sign up for Untamed

Boy, am I lucky! There are so many to choose from! 

Image (c) Untamed

Ordering Untamed cat food online cannot be easier. Follow these steps to sign up for a taster pack:

  1. Complete the Try Now quiz
  2. Provide the necessary information about your cat
  3. Create a tailor-made meal plan and complete the order

You’ll get the goods in a day. Once your Persian chooses their favourites, we can organise regular monthly deliveries so that you never run out. If you wish to change, postpone, or cancel your order, you can do so from your account. 

Other hereditary diseases in Persian cats

Check out other frequent health issues that affect Persian cats in the following table:

Health issue


Eye problems

Their unique eye shape makes Persians susceptible to eye problems, including congenital ankyloblepharon, congenital epiphora, entropion, and primary glaucoma

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia affects hip joints and results from abnormal development. Persians, Maine Coons, and Himalayan cats are prone to it because of a narrow gene pool and predisposition to obesity. It can be painful if left untreated, but full recovery is possible

Brachycephalic airway syndrome

Persians’ flat faces and narrow nasal passages often cause respiratory issues, which can impact their quality of life

Skin conditions

This breed’s long and thick coat is susceptible to matting, which, combined with their proneness to allergies, can lead to various skin conditions (feline idiopathic seborrhea, dermatophyte infections, feline eosinophilic granuloma complex, acne, and mange)

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Persians’ frequent weight problems and respiratory issues make them susceptible to cardiovascular conditions (especially later in life). Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy causes the muscle walls of the heart to thicken, disrupting the organ’s function. The disease can be prevented with a low sodium diet and an active lifestyle