Renal (Kidney) Amyloidosis in Dogs

Renal (Kidney) Amyloidosis in Dogs

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Overview of Canine Renal Amyloidosis

Kidney amyloidosis is a rare disorder of protein metabolism in which abnormal deposits of protein called amyloid is deposited in the kidneys. The cause of kidney amyloidosis remains poorly understood. It is a hereditary condition in certain breeds of dog. It also may occur in other breeds or mixed breeds as a reaction to chronic infections and inflammatory conditions. The term kidney is commonly used interchangeable with the word “renal”. 

Most dogs with kidney amyloidosis are old at the time of diagnosis (9 is average age). The disease can occur in any age or breed, with one study showing Beagles, collies, and walker hounds at increased risk, and German Shepherds and mixed-breed dogs at lower risk. It is a hereditary disorder in shar-pei dogs.

Amyloid deposits in the kidney lead to excessive protein loss in the urine and eventual chronic kidney failure. Amyloid may also be deposited in other organs like the liver, spleen and pancreas, causing them to malfunction as well.

What to Watch For

Signs of Amyloidosis in dogs may include: 

  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Intermittent vomiting
  • Labored breathing due to thromboembolism (blood clots in the lungs)
  • Ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen)
  • Edema (swelling of the limbs and/or face)
  • Possible previous history of joint swelling and fever in shar-peis
  • Diagnosis of Renal Amyloidosis in Dogs

  • Complete blood count and chemistry panel
  • Urinalysis
  • Urine protein/creatinine ratio
  • X-rays
  • Biopsy of the kidney
  • Treatment of Renal Amyloidosis in Dogs

  • Identify and treat any underlying infectious or inflammatory condition that may have led to the amyloidosis
  • Manage any concurrent kidney failure
  • Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO)
  • Colchicine
  • Home Care and Prevention

    Manage any concurrent kidney failure as described by the veterinarian with prescription diets, subcutaneous fluids, hormonal therapy to correct anemia and vitamin D therapy. Control hypertension with medication if necessary and minimize risk of thromboembolism (forming blood clots) using low dose aspirin, if prescribed.

    There are no specific preventative measures against amyloidosis.

    In-depth information on Renal (Kidney) Amyloidosis in Dogs

    Kidney amyloidosis is an uncommon disorder of protein metabolism in which a protein called amyloid is abnormally deposited in the kidneys, causing excessive protein loss in the urine.

    Among the domestic animals, it is most common in dogs, and seems to be a hereditary disorder in shar-pei dogs. Chronic inflammatory diseases can predispose animals to the development of kidney amyloidosis; however, only a small percentage of animals with chronic inflammatory conditions develop amyloidosis, thus, other factors must also be important in the development of amyloidosis. These other factors are poorly understood. Most dogs with amyloidosis do not have discernible inflammatory or infectious conditions at the time of diagnosis. However, various diseases have been observed in some dogs with amyloidosis, such as systemic fungal diseases, chronic bacterial infections, heartworm diseases, and cancer.
    Most dogs with kidney amyloidosis are old at the time they are diagnosed with the disease. The average age is 9 years in dogs. The hereditary form tends to strike earlier; affected shar-peis are 4 years old on average at the time of death or euthanasia from the disease. Beagles, collies, pointers, and Walker hounds may be at increased risk, while German shepherds and mixed breed dogs are less prone to the disorder. Both sexes are affected, although a slight predilection for females may be present.

    In dogs, amyloid deposits in the kidneys lead to eventual kidney failure. Signs of kidney failure include anorexia, lethargy, and weight loss. Excessive water consumption and urination is another common sign of kidney failure. Occasional vomiting is also seen.
    Kidney amyloidosis causes excessive protein loss in the urine. One of the proteins lost in the urine is a protein responsible for preventing the blood from clotting. As a result, affected dogs are more susceptible to formation of blood clots. These clots tend to lodge in the lungs, causing clinical signs that may not be obvious, ranging from labored breathing to major respiratory distress.

    Excessive urinary loss of a protein called albumin may lead to ascites, which is an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. It may also lead to edema, which is a swelling of the limbs and/or face. Ascites and edema are relatively uncommon occurrences in dogs with kidney amyloidosis.

    In-depth Information on Diagnosis of Amyloidosis in Dogs

  • Complete blood count and chemistry panel. These tests do not diagnose amyloidosis directly; however, they give information that may be suggest excessive protein loss from the body, as well as information as to other body systems. Complete blood counts may show changes expected for kidney failure, such as anemia. The chemistry panel usually shows low total protein, low albumin, and often, elevated kidney parameters. High cholesterol is often seen.
  • Urinalysis. Excessive protein detected on a urinalysis is the hallmark of kidney amyloidosis. Further tests to document the magnitude of the protein loss will be necessary.
  • Urine protein/creatinine ratio. This test confirms that the amount of protein lost in the urine is truly excessive.
  • X-rays. Kidney size on radiographs can vary in cases of amyloidosis. In dogs, kidney size may be small, normal, or larger than normal, making this test not very informative.
  • Biopsy of the kidney. A kidney biopsy is necessary to make a definitive diagnosis of amyloidosis and distinguish it from other disorders of the kidney that can lead to excessive urinary protein loss.
  • In-depth Information on Treatment of Amyloidosis in Dogs

    Treatment of kidney amyloidosis in dogs is difficult and often unrewarding, especially if kidney failure has already begun to develop. The principles of therapy are as follows:

  • Identify and treat any underlying infectious or inflammatory condition that may have led to the amyloidosis.
  • Manage any concurrent kidney failure – this may require hospitalization and intravenous fluids, or may only require outpatient care. Prescription diets, hormonal supplements, and other dietary supplements may be necessary for treatment.
  • Experimental therapy such as DMSO or colchicine. Administration of the drug dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) during the very early stages of the disease has been shown to be an effective treatment; however, most dogs present much later in the course of their disease, when DMSO is much less effective.
  • Colchicine may be beneficial for humans with the disorder in certain circumstances, but it has yet to be studied well in dogs.
  • Follow-up Care for Dogs with Amyloidosis

    Optimal treatment for your dog requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical, especially if your dog does not rapidly improve.

  • Administer all prescribed medication(s) as directed. Alert your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems treating your dog.
  • Feed special low protein prescription diets as recommended.
  • Return for frequent re-examination. If therapy has been attempted, your veterinarian will want to monitor the urinary protein loss by performing serial urine protein/creatinine ratios to see if the magnitude of the protein loss is decreasing, as well as serial chemistry panels to see if the circulating protein and albumin levels are rising toward the normal range.
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