Glomerulonephritis in Dogs

Glomerulonephritis in dogs is a serious medical condition which can eventually lead to chronic kidney disease and failure when left untreated. However, there are treatments available which can slow down the progression to kidney failure or even prevent the onset of kidney failure in some cases. For this reason, it is important for dog owners to understand glomerulonephritis in dogs and how to recognize it.

Overview of Glomerulonephritis

The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste and creating urine to excrete the excessive waste. In dogs, the kidneys are made up of filtering units known as glomeruli. The glomeruli absorb and filter water, protein, glucose, and electrolytes from the bloodstream. Once these substances have been filtered, the tubules of the kidney then reabsorb the glucose and electrolytes and convert the remaining substances into urine. This entire process is necessary for a dog’s body to absorb vital nutrients and expend those that are unnecessary or harmful. When the glomeruli become inflamed, it is known as glomerulonephritis.

Glomerulonephritis occurs when antibodies become trapped in the glomeruli, which results in an inflammatory response by the immune system. Oftentimes this occurs when a dog has some type of infection or cancer. However, sometimes the true etiology is never able to be determined.

Inflammation of the glomeruli interrupts normal kidney function, resulting in excessive amounts of protein in the urine and damage to the kidney cells as they try to compensate for the suboptimal performance of the glomeruli. It is important to note that kidney cells are not capable of regenerating or reproducing themselves, so the downward effect of glomerulonephritis in dogs is kidney failure.

Signs and Symptoms of Glomerulonephritis

The after effects of glomerulonephritis in dogs can be detrimental and life-threatening when suboptimal kidney function persists for long periods of time. In order to prevent glomerulonephritis from progressing to kidney failure, it is important for dog owners to recognize the symptoms of glomerulonephritis in dogs:

  • Distension of the abdomen (swelling)
  • Increased thirst and excessive drinking
  • Excessive urination
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Elevated temperature
  • Breathing difficulties

Any of these signs should prompt immediate medical treatment, as they are indications that kidney function is stopping and the byproduct of bodily waste has become toxic to the dog.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Glomerulonephritis

When glomerulonephritis in dogs is suspected, the first tests to be conducted are the complete blood count, urinalysis, and comprehensive metabolic profile. The complete blood count determines whether the dog has become anemic and or if any infection is present. The urinalysis determines the level of protein circulating within the urine. The comprehensive metabolic profile expresses the ratio of blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels, which are indicators of kidney function and protein within the bloodstream.

If the underlying cause of glomerulonephritis can be identified, such as cancer or infection, then it will be treated to see if it clears the inflammation of the glomeruli. However, when the true etiology cannot be determined, low-protein and low-sodium diets may be implemented to help reduce the working load on the kidneys. Blood pressure medications may also been given if glomerulonephritis causes elevated blood pressure levels.