Recent studies in our laboratory using the Zucker obese (ZO) and Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rat models resulted in unexpectedly high mortality rates in all genotypes including healthy homozygous lean Zucker rats, possibly because of renal dysfunction. Therefore, we evaluated left ventricular (LV) and kidney morphology and function in young ZO, Zucker diabetic fatty obese (ZDFO), homozygous Zucker/ZDF lean (ZL), and Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats. Hydronephrosis was evident in ZL, ZO, and ZDFO but not SD kidneys. ZDFO rats exhibited impaired LV shortening and relaxation with increased arterial stiffness. LV wall thickness was lower and LV end-systolic wall stress was higher in ZDFO compared with SD rats. Plasma ANG II was lower in ZO and ZDFO rats, which may be a result of reduced renal parenchyma with hydronephrosis; norepinephrine was higher in ZDFO rats than SD controls. Covariate analysis indicated that LV end-systolic wall stress was associated with renal dysfunction. The presence of hydronephrosis and its association with LV dysfunction potentially limits the ZDF model for study of the effects of diabetes on renal and cardiovascular function. Copyright © 2007 the American Physiological Society.