Like Protein Losing Enteropathy, which is a protein and plasma losing disease of the gastrointestinal system, protein losing nephropathy allows protein and plasma to be lost from the kidneys. The medical term for protein losing nephropathy is glomerulopathies, which covers the entire range of protein losing conditions of the kidneys. Over time this condition results in a lack of protein to fuel the body, resulting in a shutdown of the metabolic processes, build of up fluid in the abdomen and chest cavities, and eventual death from complications with edema if not treated. With the kidneys affected the eventual result of the disease is renal failure, which is fatal in dogs. Typically PLN is seen in the same breeds that are affected by PLE, however PLN is more common in females than males and can often occur in dogs that are between the ages of two to six years. Breeds that are more predisposed to the condition include Samoyeds, Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Rottweilers, Beagles, Dobermans and Greyhounds.
Since protein losing nephropathy affects the kidneys there are many symptoms that are common to any type of kidney disease including diabetes. The most common symptoms include a large increase in the daily intake of water along with either frequent, small amounts of urine or very little urination at all compared to the volume of water consumed. General lack of energy, lack of interest in food and exercise, failure to grow normally in the case of younger dogs as well as poor coat condition and general weight loss. PLN is often misdiagnosed so it is very important to check back with your vet if the medications or treatment options provided do not seem to be having the desired results. Unfortunately the condition can develop very slowly, which usually results in the greatest damage to the kidneys and by the time it is diagnosed there are few treatment options available. In sudden onset conditions of PLN quick treatment can effectively limit the damage to the kidneys, resulting in the best long-term prognosis.
PLN can be caused by the dog's body producing antigens that actually attack the kidney when they are built up to significant levels within the kidney itself. This condition is often triggered by food allergies and gluten seems to be the most common allergen. Removing all gluten products from the dog's diet may be very effective in managing the condition and preventing further damage to the kidney. Chronic bacterial infections, Leptospirosis and heartworm can all contribute to the likelihood of a predisposed dog to developing PLN. In addition conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and cancers can also trigger the protein loss from the kidney.
Treatment includes finding the root problem that has triggered the condition, which may mean treating infections, chronic health conditions, as well as limiting or controlling the protein in the diet. This will reduce the amount of protein in the urine and reduce kidney damage. Aspirin is used to reduce chronic or periodic inflammation that may be making the conditions worse and intravenous fluids may be required to balance the system. Hypertension or high blood pressure is often found with dogs with PLN so restricting salt in the diet as well as treating with medications to lower blood pressure is an important part of the treatment program.