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Intestinal Protein Loss in Dogs

Protein-Losing Enteropathy in Dogs

Protein-Losing Enteropathy in Dogs is a condition where a dog’s health is significantly impacted due to disruptions in the digestive process, hindering the absorption and utilization of essential nutrients from their regular diet. This condition, categorized under enteropathy, which pertains to any abnormality in the intestines, can arise from various diseases causing damage to the intestines and resulting in excessive protein loss.

The journey of nutrients through a dog’s body begins in the stomach, where food is broken down and then moves into the intestines for further processing. In the intestines, nutrients are separated into components beneficial for the body and those that are not. The beneficial nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream, which transports them throughout the body to be converted into various forms of energy.

During this process, a small amount of protein typically leaks from the blood vessels back into the intestines. Normally, these proteins are digested, reabsorbed into the bloodstream, and utilized by the body to generate more protein. However, when the intestines are damaged, more protein leaks into the intestines than the body can replace, leading to protein loss.

While protein-losing enteropathy can affect dogs of any breed or age, certain breeds are more susceptible than others. These include the soft-coated wheaten terrier, basenji, Yorkshire terrier, and Norwegian lundehund.

Symptoms and Types

The manifestation of protein-losing enteropathy in dogs can present with several noticeable signs:

  • Periodic episodes of diarrhea
  • Persistent or chronic diarrhea
  • Weight reduction
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Respiratory difficulties, characterized by labored breathing (dyspnea)
  • Swelling or enlargement of the abdomen
  • Swollen legs and feet, exhibiting puffiness or edema


Protein-losing enteropathy in dogs can stem from various underlying conditions:

  • Intestinal cancer
  • Intestinal infections, including bacterial infections like salmonella
  • Fungal infections
  • Presence of intestinal parasites such as hookworms and whipworms
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, resulting in inflammation of the intestines
  • Food allergies
  • Ulcers in the stomach or intestines
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Impairment in the movement of lymphatic fluid out of the intestines, known as lymphangiectasia


A comprehensive overview of your dog’s health history and the onset of symptoms will be required. Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination, which will encompass standard laboratory procedures such as a complete blood count, biochemical profile, and urinalysis. These samples will assist in determining your dog’s blood protein and calcium levels. To establish a diagnosis, various potential causes will need to be ruled out.

Your veterinarian will order stool (fecal) tests to investigate the presence of intestinal parasites, infections, and other indicators suggesting protein loss from the intestines. Additionally, blood vitamin levels may be checked, as they could be depleted if protein loss from the intestines is occurring. X-ray and ultrasound imaging of your dog’s chest and abdomen will be performed to visually inspect internal structures for signs of ulcers, tumors, and assess heart function for any abnormalities.

In cases where a more detailed examination of the stomach and intestines is necessary, an endoscopy may be recommended. This procedure involves passing a small camera attached to a tube through your dog’s mouth or anus into the intestines, allowing for a close inspection of the stomach and intestinal walls. The endoscopic device also facilitates the collection of tissue samples for biopsy, offering valuable insights into the underlying cause of protein loss through the intestines.


The course of treatment will be determined by the specific underlying disease responsible for your dog’s protein loss through its intestines. In cases where your dog’s protein levels are critically low, a transfusion may be necessary to replenish some of the blood protein.

Living and Management

In many instances, there isn’t a cure for protein loss through the intestines. Your veterinarian will collaborate with you to devise a treatment regimen aimed at managing your dog’s symptoms. This may include tailored exercise routines and a diet plan to optimize nutrient absorption by your dog’s body.

During follow-up appointments, comprehensive blood tests and biochemical profiles will be conducted to monitor your dog’s blood protein levels, ensuring they remain stable and don’t reach dangerously low levels. Your veterinarian will also assess your dog for signs of respiratory distress and abdominal fluid buildup.

Be attentive to your dog’s cues regarding exercise. Adjust your dog’s walking schedule or route based on its physical capabilities. Provide a tranquil environment for your dog to rest after exertion, away from lively children and other pets.

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