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Nephrotic Syndrome in Cats

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Nephrotic syndrome is characterized by the combination of protein in the urine, low protein level in the blood, high cholesterol and abnormal fluid accumulation in any part of the body (edema).

Dogs are affected more commonly than cats. The average age of onset varies, but middle-aged dogs are most commonly affected. Several breeds are felt to be at higher risk than average.

Two common causes of nephrotic syndrome include:

Glomerulonephritis (GN)

This is an inflammation of the kidney – specifically in the area referred to as the glomerulus.

  • Familial (appearing in multiple members of the same family) GN has been reported in cats.

  • Acquired GN is uncommon.

    Amyloidosis

    This is the deposition in organs and tissues of a protein called amyloid that compromise normal function.

  • Familial amyloidosis has been reported in the Oriental shorthair, Abyssinian and Siamese.

  • Acquired amyloidosis is uncommon.

    The type, number, and severity of clinical signs associated with the nephrotic syndrome are variable. Signs may be associated with an underlying disease process, such as with infection and immune disease.

    What to Watch For

  • Edema or ascites (fluid in the abdominal cavity)
  • Acute dyspnea (difficulty breathing) or panting
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of vision

    Diagnosis

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Urine Protein:Creatinine Ratio
  • Bacterial urine culture
  • Chest and abdominal X-rays
  • Abdominal ultrasound +/- kidney biopsy
  • Blood pressure

    Treatment

    It is most important to determine whether the patient's condition warrants admission to the hospital for treatment, or treatment at home as an outpatient. Treatment may include:

  • Dietary modification
  • Antibiotics
  • Fluid and electrolyte therapy
  • Treatment for concurrent high blood pressure, edema, ascites or thrombosis (blood clots)

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer all medication and diet as directed by your veterinarian. Return for follow up evaluation, and/or notify your veterinarian if your pet exhibits recurrence or progression of signs.

    There are no recommendations to prevent nephrotic syndrome.

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