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Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is the most common inherited disease in cats. The disease causes the formation of fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys that can lead to kidney failure.

Found in

1 in 1,300 cats

in our testing

Key Signs

Cysts in kidneys, Chronic renal failure, Possible cysts in pancreas and liver

Age of Onset

1 to 4 yrs

Junior to adult onset


Autosomal Dominant

For autosomal dominant disorders, cats with one or two copies of the disease variant are at risk of developing the condition. Inheriting two copies of the risk variant may make the risk higher or the condition more severe. They may produce kittens affected with the disorder if bred.

Likelihood of the Condition

High likelihood

At risk cats are highly likely to show signs of this disease in their lifetime.

What to Do

Here’s how to care for a cat with PKD

Partner with your veterinarian to make a plan regarding your cat’s well-being, including any insights provided through genetic testing. If your pet is at risk or is showing signs of this disorder, then the first step is to speak with your veterinarian.

For Veterinarians

Here’s what a vet needs to know about PKD

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), also named autosomal dominant PKD, is characterized by variously sized, fluid-filled cysts in the renal cortex and medulla with hepatic and pancreatic cysts also possible. The cysts develop from birth and enlarge with age. The cysts destroy the renal parenchyma and disturb renal function, eventually causing renal failure. Affected cats present with signs of renal insufficiency such as weight loss, decreased appetite, increased drinking and urination, poor body condition, and vomiting. Biochemical labwork and ultrasonography examination are helpful tools in identifying the severity of disease within an affected individual. An autosomal dominant point mutation in the PKD1 gene has been identified as the most common genetic mutation for the disease. No homozygous cats have been identified, suggesting the mutation is a homozygous lethal mutation in utero. PKD is very common in Persian and Persian-related cats, affecting approximately 38% of Persian cats worldwide. While there is no known sex linkage to the inheritance of the mutation, research has shown male cats have a higher prevalence of the mutation.

There is no treatment specific for feline polycystic kidney disease. As the symptoms are similar to patients with feline chronic kidney disease, therapy is guided towards the same supportive care methods such as special diets, fluid therapy, medications to reduce nausea and to block absorption of phosphorus, along with other support options for feline kidney failure.

For Breeders

Planning to breed a cat with this genetic variant?

There are many responsibilities to consider when breeding cats. Regardless of test results it is important that your cat is in good general health and that you are in a position to care for the kittens if new responsible owners are not found. For first time or novice breeders, advice can be found at most cat registry websites.

This disease is autosomal dominant meaning that one copy of the mutation is needed for disease signs to occur. Use of cats with one or two copies of the disease mutation is not recommended, as there is a risk that the resulting litter will contain affected kittens. For example if a cat with one copy of the PKD mutation is bred with a clear cat with no copies of the PKD mutation, about half of the kittens will have one copy and half will have no copies of the PKD mutation. Please note: It is possible that disease signs similar to the ones caused by the PKD mutation could develop due to a different genetic or clinical cause.

Technical Details

Gene PKD1
Variant C>A
Chromosome E3
Coordinate 42,858,112

All coordinates reference FelCat9.0

References & Credit

Credit to our scientific colleagues:

Lyons, L. A., Biller, D. S., Erdman, C. A., Lipinski, M. J., Young, A. E., Roe, B. A., Qin, B., & Grahn, R. A. (2004). Feline polycystic kidney disease mutation identified in PKD1. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 15(10), 2548–2555. View the article