Lymphangiectasia - Page 1

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By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Lymphangiectasia is an obstructive disorder characterized by marked dilation and dysfunction of the intestinal lymphatic system. This disorder affects the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in a protein-losing enteropathy, and eventually, profoundly low blood protein levels develop. Impaired intestinal lymph drainage is presumably caused by obstruction to the normal flow.

Primary or Congenital Causes

  • Focal (intestinal only) lymphangiectasia
  • Diffuse (widespread) lymphatic abnormalities
  • Chylothorax (collection of high fat lymphatic fluid in the chest cavity)
  • Lymphedema (swelling of any part of the body due to insufficient lymphatic drainage)
  • Chylous ascites (collection of high fat lymphatic fluid in the abdominal cavity)
  • Thoracic duct obstruction (blockage of the lymphatic system that drains the chest cavity)

    Secondary Causes

  • Right heart failure
  • Constrictive pericarditis (covering of the heart cannot expand)
  • Budd-Chiari syndrome (blockage of the liver veins)
  • Cancer

    The average age of onset is 5 years of age, however this disorder can be seen in older or younger dogs. There appears to be a slight increased incidence in females over males. Although lymphangiectasia can affect all breeds, dogs with a familial predisposition include soft-coated Wheaten terriers, basenjis, Lundehunds and Yorkshire terriers.

    Although some patients may be asymptomatic (have no clinical signs), some may have life threatening manifestations of lymphangiectasia.

    What to Watch For

  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Flatulence
  • Ascites (fluid in the abdominal cavity)
  • Edema (abnormal fluid accumulation in any part of the body)
  • Respiratory difficulty secondary to pleural effusion (fluid in the chest cavity)


  • Complete blood cell count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal examinations
  • Chest and abdominal X-rays
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Gastroduodenoscopy


  • Dietary management is often recommended and one of the most important parts of therapy.

  • Oncotic agents like plasma, dextrans, hetastarch help maintain normal fluid distribution in the body and may be of benefit in critical cases that are severely hypoproteinemic and need immediate attention.

  • Corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory drugs)

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer all medication and dietary recommendations as directed by your veterinarian. Follow up as directed. If your pet's condition is not improving or is getting worse, seek veterinary attention at once.

    There is no preventative care for protein losing enteropathy.

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