Overview of Canine Glomerulonephritis
Glomerulonephritis, commonly abbreviated as “GN”, is a disease of the kidney that can occur in dogs. The kidneys consist of many thousand microscopic filtering units called glomeruli that filter water and small substances from the bloodstream. The tubules of the kidney then reabsorb vital substances such as glucose and electrolytes from the filtered fluid leaving unneeded substances and a small amount of water in the urine.
Glomerulonephritis is inflammation of these microscopic filtering units of the kidneys that develops when immune complexes (complexes of antibodies and antigens) become trapped in the glomeruli, leading to activation of the body’s inflammatory defense system, which, in turn, damages the glomeruli. The immune complexes often form as a consequence of some other disease process such as infection or cancer. However, in many dogs with glomerulonephritis, the inciting cause cannot be found and the problem is said to be idiopathic.
Glomerulonephritis results in excessive loss of protein into the urine (proteinuria). The finding of protein in the urine on urinalysis may be the first indication that your pet has glomerulonephritis. Untreated, the disease can lead to chronic kidney failure.
Dogs of any age, breed or gender can develop glomerulonephritis. In many pets, there may be no obvious symptoms of glomerulonephritis.
What to Watch For
Signs of Glomerulonephritis in Dogs may include:
Diagnosis of Glomerulonephritis in Dogs
Diagnostic tests are needed to identify acute glomerulonephritis and exclude other diseases. These may include:
Treatment of Glomerulonephritis in Dogs
Home Care and Prevention
Administer as directed any medications prescribed by your veterinarian. Follow any dietary recommendations and schedule regular follow-up visits with your veterinarian to monitor your pet’s progress.
Observation is important. Make sure your dog’s activity level, appetite and attitude remain normal. Watch for difficulty breathing or limb weakness that may indicate development of thromboembolism. Observe your pet for loss of vision that could indicate complications of hypertension. Look for swelling of the paws, hocks or face that could indicate development of subcutaneous edema and for swelling of the abdomen that could indicate fluid accumulation.
Glomerulonephritis is difficult to prevent. Certain infectious, inflammatory and cancerous diseases can lead to development of glomerulonephritis and regular annual examinations by your veterinarian are advised to be certain your pet remains healthy and free of such diseases.
In-depth Information on Canine Glomerulonephritis
The kidneys filter water and small molecules from the bloodstream and into the renal tubules. Water and essential molecules are reabsorbed from the tubules and the remaining waste products and a small amount of water are excreted as urine. The microscopic filters of the kidney are called glomeruli (singular, glomerulus), which are small tufts of capillary blood vessels that act as a sieve, allowing small substances to pass through while keeping larger substances such as proteins and blood cells in the bloodstream.
Glomeruli can be damaged by inflammation and become leaky. This is called glomerulonephritis. Very large things, such as red and white blood cells, still are not filtered but some substances not normally filtered like proteins leak through the inflamed glomeruli into the urine. The excessive loss of protein in the urine is called proteinuria, and this condition can adversely affect your pet’s health.
Glomerulonephritis occurs when large numbers of immune complexes – these are antigen-antibody complexes – circulating in the bloodstream become trapped in the glomeruli as they attempt to pass into the urine. Deposition of immune complexes triggers an inflammatory reaction that damages the glomeruli and results in proteinuria. The antigens bound to the antibodies in the immune complexes arise as a result of some chronic infectious, inflammatory or cancerous disease process. Several diseases have the potential to result in glomerulonephritis.
The clinical symptoms of glomerulonephritis are quite variable.