What Do Elevated Creatinine Levels Mean?

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, discusses the reasons behind elevated creatinine levels.

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, discusses the reasons behind elevated creatinine levels.

Q: My mom’s 1 ½-year-old cat, Callie, recently needed surgery. The vet office called before the surgery to tell me that Callie’s creatinine levels were slightly elevated when they performed the pre-surgery blood tests. The receptionist said this could indicate liver disease and that Callie may have to have bloodwork done every 6 months and be put on a special diet.

I looked up creatinine on the Internet and most cats who have this elevated condition are older senior cats and it applies to kidney disease, not liver disease. I also read an article where the vet said that sometimes when cats are stressed, this level can be slightly elevated or with some cats that could be a normal level for them.

I am going to get a copy of the bloodwork and send it to my mobile vet, who comes to my house once a year for my two cats. But, I’m afraid to say, I question a lot of vet practices because I worry that these offices can add things in order to generate money for their practices and I’m just trying to get an answer from someone who isn’t going to benefit from the diagnosis.

Anything you can tell me about this would be truly appreciated, as I’m quite upset over Callie and I’m the one paying for her treatments.

A: The receptionist who told you that elevated creatinine levels are a sign of liver disease is misinformed. Creatinine is an indicator of kidney function, not liver function. The creatinine level does not become elevated when the cat is stressed. Rather than creatinine, blood glucose can go up when a cat is nervous at the vet’s office.

A 1 ½-year-old cat probably doesn’t have kidney problems. Creatinine can be slightly elevated as a result of mild dehydration; this would be easy to determine by analyzing a urine specimen.

Don’t get upset. I’m almost certain that the slightly elevated creatinine is not due to kidney disease. Make sure your vet obtains urine from your cat. If the urine is concentrated, then Callie is fine and can be safely anesthetized. If the creatinine is slightly high and the urine is a little dilute, then Callie may have the beginnings of renal failure. Again, I think this is very unlikely.

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