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Glomerulonephritis in Dogs

Glomerulonephritis is a condition in dogs where the tiny vessels in the kidneys, known as glomeruli, become inflamed and impaired in their function of filtering waste products during urine formation. The primary cause of glomerulonephritis is the deposition and entrapment of antigen-antibody complexes within the glomeruli. Additionally, certain breeds like Bernese Mountain Dogs, Bull Terriers, Dalmatians, Samoyeds, Doberman Pinschers, Cocker Spaniels, Newfoundlands, Greyhounds, Rottweilers, and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers are prone to familial glomerulonephritis.

Symptoms and Types

The symptoms of glomerulonephritis can vary depending on the underlying cause, which could be inflammation, infection, or neoplasia. In some dogs, weight loss and weakness might be the only presenting signs. Often, the condition is detected incidentally during routine annual health screenings, where increased levels of proteins are found in the urine. Severe protein loss into the urine can lead to the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity (ascites).

Dogs in advanced stages of the disease, with kidney failure, may exhibit increased thirst and urination frequency, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. Those with a severe deficiency of the blood protein albumin (hypoalbuminemia) may experience blockage of the lung’s blood vessels, resulting in respiratory difficulties or severe panting. High blood pressure can lead to sudden blindness.

Causes

  • Inflammation
  • Infections
  • Idiopathic (unknown)
  • Neoplasia (tissue growth, tumor)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Prolonged use of specific medications

Diagnosis

To diagnose your dog’s condition, it’s important to provide a detailed history of their health, symptoms onset, and any relevant incidents. A comprehensive blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis. While the complete blood count test may not show significant results, severe cases may reveal low levels of blood protein albumin (hypoalbuminemia) and high cholesterol levels (hypercholesterolemia) in the biochemistry profile. The presence of albumin and other proteins in the blood can aid in the initial diagnosis. Urinalysis will show corresponding changes in urine for dogs with kidney failure.

Creatinine, a waste product excreted by the kidneys, is measured in urine as a diagnostic indicator of kidney function. Urine protein testing helps evaluate and monitor kidney function. A specific test calculates the urine protein and creatinine ratio, providing insight into the degree of kidney damage. The extent of protein loss in urine correlates with the severity of kidney disease, aiding in treatment assessment and disease progression monitoring.

Diagnostic imaging helps determine the extent of your dog’s condition and necessary treatment. These procedures assist in diagnosing concurrent diseases and evaluating kidney size. Abdominal X-rays and ultrasound assess kidneys and other abdominal organs, providing a less invasive option for tissue collection for biopsy. A kidney biopsy may be taken to rule out other causes of kidney failure, such as neoplasia or cancer.

Treatment

Since the majority of glomerulonephritis cases involve an immune reaction triggered by the interaction of antigens and antibodies, the most targeted therapy aims to control and eliminate this immune response. However, identifying and treating the precise disease process or antigen responsible for the immune reactions is not always feasible. Additionally, once renal failure sets in, the prognosis tends to be poor. The treatment approach for this disease varies depending on the cause and severity of the condition at the time of diagnosis.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will devise a personalized diet plan for your dog focused on promoting kidney health. These patients typically benefit from diets low in sodium and high in quality, yet low in quantity, protein. Since most medications are metabolized through the kidneys, avoid administering any drugs or altering the dosage of prescribed medications without consulting your veterinarian first. During follow-up appointments, your veterinarian will perform routine laboratory tests to monitor the response to therapy and disease progression, making adjustments to medications and treatments as needed.

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