Anthony Hutcherson: RenalTech uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to tell if a cat is going to develop chronic kidney disease. Is there a magic robot reading cat pawprints? Explain the idea of data analysis as a predictor of chronic kidney disease.
Dr. Ogeer: I love your question: the concept of artificial intelligence does seem rather “science-fiction’y,” doesn’t it? Soon after we launched RenalTech™ in October 2019, I wrote an article that briefly chronicled the history of AI, its application in human medicine and our rationale for introducing AI and machine learning to veterinary medicine. It’s here if you’d like to read it.
In short, it’s all about the data. As Angela shared, RenalTech is the first and only predictive diagnostic tool in veterinary medicine: It predicts chronic kidney disease (CKD) in cats up to two years before it occurs. It accomplishes this by combining artificial intelligence and machine learning with 20 years of data from over 150,000 cats to predict whether or not a cat will develop CKD within two years (see published data show its 95% accurate). We offer it free of charge as part of the minimum database most veterinarians perform during an annual feline exam. From the minimum database, RenalTech uses six common feline health measurements (measured in the minimum database)—creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, white blood cell count, urine specific gravity, urine protein, urine pH–along with approximate age—to deliver a RenalTech Status. Based on a cat’s positive or negative RenalTech status, veterinarians can say with certainty if a cat has or will develop CKD within the next two years.
This is significant because data show 1 in 3 cats will develop CKD, a highly complex disease that has been historically difficult to diagnose with current detection methods. While early intervention strategies for CKD exist (see treatment guidelines from the International Renal Interest Society), current detection methods find disease only once significant kidney damage has occurred. This fact makes intervention and treatment exceptionally challenging for veterinarians, which has long been a source of frustration. RenalTech gives veterinarians the unique opportunity to predict disease before it occurs, allowing them to begin monitoring and treatment of CKD when it is identified early.
Anthony Hutcherson: Where did Antech get that much data for comparison, is it part of a larger cat health network?
Dr. Ogeer: Good question. It’s an important one that points to how Antech is unique in veterinary diagnostics: we’re part of the largest pet health ecosystem in the world. RenalTech reflects the combined expertise and collaboration of different groups in Mars Petcare, The Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition and Antech Diagnostics. Its development relied on the anonymized medical data of more than 150,000 cats and 750,000 patient visits over 20 years, which took place at Banfield Pet Hospital®, another Mars company. Antech’s access to this breadth and depth of data and expertise is unprecedented in veterinary medicine and allows us to continually innovate so that we’re creating new diagnostics that help veterinarians find disease earlier, faster so that pets can stay with their owners and families for as long as possible and enjoy the highest quality of life.
Anthony Hutcherson: Does the RenalTech require more blood or urine than my veterinarian would ordinarily want as part of a diagnostic exam?
Dr. Ogeer: No. RenalTech requires only the bloodwork and urinalysis results obtained from a minimum database, which is commonly performed by veterinarians during a routine feline annual wellness visit.
Importantly, the feline annual wellness visit must occur! As your readers know all too well, cats don’t visit the vet as often as dogs. This has been a long-standing issue in veterinary medicine that we’re working to help address. A recently announced study on RenalTech use showed that the predictive diagnostic tool inspired pet owners to visit the veterinarian more and seek better preventive care for their cats.
The one-year, retrospective analysis showed that regardless of a cat’s positive or negative RenalTech status, use of the test compelled pet owners to proactively seek the following:
- Early interventions to delay CKD onset and progression
- CKD food and medicine purchases increased by 8x and 2x respectively:
- 31.5% of pet owners with RenalTech-positive cats purchased renal therapeutic diets vs. only 4.8% percent of all other cats.
- 41% purchased CKD-related medications vs. only 26.3% of all other cats.
- Improved access to preventive care for all cats
All cats regardless of RenalTech status, positive, negative and inconclusive, received improved, sustained veterinary care:
- Visits from RenalTech-negative cats increased 14% year-over-year.
- Visits from RenalTech-positive cats increased even more significantly by 31% year over year.
We are continually adding to the data supporting RenalTech’s value in veterinary medicine. The latest findings support RenalTech’s value as a predictive diagnostic tool for veterinarians seeking to improve overall feline wellness while also positively impacting the health of cats facing CKD. As Dr. Jonathan Elliott, MA, Vet MB, PhD, Cert SAC, Dip ECVPT, MRCVS, Professor of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology at Royal Veterinary College in London, commented in our press release: “With appropriate medical management, cats with chronic kidney disease can survive for a significant amount of time with good quality of life. However, the perennial issue with cats has always been getting them in the door, and for cats with CKD, diagnosing them early enough for early care strategies to make a difference. With recent developments in diagnostic tests and ways of utilizing the data we gather from routine geriatric health screens, we now have a very real opportunity to impact both access to preventive care for all cats and improve on the duration of good quality of life of cats facing and living with CKD.”
Anthony Hutcherson: When an owner can determine months or even years in advance of any clinical symptoms of chronic kidney disease are there steps that can be taken to delay or even prevent the onset of the disease?
Dr. Ogeer: Absolutely! RenalTech provides veterinarians with an opportunity to act proactively instead of reactively—to treat chronic kidney disease (CKD) in cats before it occurs. As noted above, the International Renal Interest Society offers treatment recommendations for cats at each disease stage but it’s important to note IRIS’ perspective: “All treatments for (CKD) need to be tailored to the individual patient.” That’s what RenalTech allows. Once veterinarians have a RenalTech value for a feline patient, they can begin creating a comprehensive, personalized care plan and empower pet owners to be more engaged to ensure that their cats lives the longest, healthiest life possible.
Antech has also created a RenalTech Care Pathway, which identifies the care pathway for each result. It also details additional strategies to ensure optimal health for RenalTech Positive cats. These data-backed strategies include identify co-morbid conditions, like hyperthyroidism, that occur concurrently with CKD, maintaining good oral health; avoiding nephrotoxic drugs; counseling owners to monitor for decreased appetite, weight loss and increased urinary and drinking habits; feeding high quality food with moderate phosphorous; ensuring constant access to fresh, clean water; and considering fatty acid supplements.
Anthony Hutcherson: How can I make sure the veterinary hospital, where I take my cats, is aware of RenalTech?
Dr. Ogeer: As a pet owner, you can ask your veterinarian about this new predictive tool you have heard about and if they have access to this exciting new tool.
For more information, visit RenalTech’s website.