When evaluating early kidney injuries in people, doctors monitor blood level increases of creatinine, a waste product of muscle breakdown. Creatinine is filtered by the kidneys, and small increases are an indication of early damage to vital kidney function. For pets suffering critical illness or injury, University of Missouri researchers have found that even tiny increases of creatinine in blood could also indicate acute kidney damage. Using human blood measurement guidelines for acute kidney injuries, the researchers believe they can now help pet owners better know the severity of their animals’ illness.

Along with her colleagues, Marie Kerl, associate teaching professor in the department of veterinary medicine and surgery in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, performed a retrospective study of creatinine changes in 164 injured dogs admitted to the intensive care unit at the University of Missouri Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. The researchers compared the animal medical records and creatinine levels to criteria used to evaluate human acute kidney injury. They then developed a veterinary acute kidney injury staging system, which would indicate to veterinarians how increases of creatinine correspond to the animal’s risk of death. “This kidney evaluation staging system would be another way for veterinarians to share recommendations based on the probable outcomes,” says Kerl.