Veterinarian researchers at several American universities have been conducting research into the cause and cure of protein-losing nephropathy (PLN), which appears to be higher in Soft-Coated Wheaton Terriers than any other breed.
PLN appears to be an inherent genetic problem with the breed that affects the dog's kidneys. Wheatens suffering with this condition experience ascites, diarrhea and vomiting, as well as the subsequent weight loss. Because protein is lost through elimination, a dog sick with PLN will become quite listless and must be treated as soon as possible. In some cases, PLN, which directly affects the kidneys, can be fatal.
Researchers are still trying to figure out if diet or allergies, bacteria or other air-borne items can trigger the disease. They also hope to determine if one sex is more susceptible due to hormones. What they do know so far is that most Wheaten Terriers are between five and six years of age when they contract the illness, with twice as many being females.
Sponsored by the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America (SCWTCA), the research is ongoing at Texas A & M University, the University of Pennsylvania and North Carolina State University. Since there is no way to tell which Wheaten Terriers will develop PLN, the SCWTCA said owners should be extra careful about breeding.
Standard blood and urine tests do not give any indication of this disease. The first signs of PLN aside from weakness include edema or abnormal fluid retention, ascites and pleural diffusion.
Owners and potential buyers should check with breeders as there is now an Open Registry established for both the United States and Canada that includes both genetic and medical information related to PLN.
Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers are also prone to protein-losing enteropathy (PLE), which is very similar to PLN but affects the dog's stomach. It has been found that between 15 and 20 percent of Wheatens in the United States suffer from either PLN or PLE.
Breeders recommend that Wheaten Terrier owners keep their dogs on a high-quality diet that is low in protein. Wheat gluten is also a suspect in the development of both diseases, so be sure to check dog food labels.
Another disease that not only affects Wheaten Terriers, but all dogs is canine parvovirus infection (CPV). This illness is contracted from one dog to another through their fecal matter. It affects the intestines and sometimes, the white blood cells and the heart. Owners must keep their dogs clean and away from areas where dogs are allowed to leave fecal matter unattended. Even when you take your Wheaton out for a walk, look out for dog dodo on lawns and sidewalks.
If your Wheaton contracts CPV, you will know because he will eat very little, if anything. He may also have diarrhea and vomiting, along with canine depression. Your dog's feces may be anything from gray to yellow, possibly with blood in them. If you see any of these signs, get your dog to a veterinarian immediately, as extreme dehydration can cause death.