Nephrotic Syndrome in Dogs

Nephrotic syndrome in dogs occurs when your dog has abnormal amounts of protein in both his urine and blood, combined with fluid-build up in the tissues of his body and high cholesterol. This serious disorder may have a genetic component. Read on to learn more.

Causes of Nephrotic Syndrome in Dogs

There are two disorders that usually cause nephrotic syndrome in dogs, amyloidosis and glomerulonephritis, or GN. Amyloidosis causes fibrous tissue known as amyloid to accumulate in your dog's organs, so that they can't function properly. GN is a disease that generally causes kidney inflammation. Both diseases may have genetic components.

Chinese Shar-Peis are prone to familial amyloidosis. Walker hounds, beagles and collies are most vulnerable to acquired amyloidosis, another form of the disease. 

A form of GN known as familial GN is most common in the following breeds:

  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Samoyed
  • Greyhound
  • Rottweiler
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Wheaten Terrier

Symptoms of Nephrotic Syndrome in Dogs

The symptoms of nephrotic syndrome in dogs can vary, depending on its cause. The most common symptoms of nephrotic syndrome in dogs include the build-up of fluid in the abdomen, which can cause your dog to look swollen or fat in the belly. Dogs with nephrotic syndrome may have trouble breathing and may pant excessively. Your dog may experience vision loss, lethargy, anorexia and weight loss.

Diagnosing and Treating Nephrotic Syndrome in Dogs

Your vet will need to perform blood tests and a urinalysis to diagnose nephrotic syndrome in your dog. Ultrasounds of the abdomen, as well as biopsies of kidney tissue, may be necessary. X-rays of the chest and abdominal region are often called for. Your vet will also need to measure your dog's blood pressure.

If your dog has a family history of amyloidosis or GN, tell your vet.

Your dog may need to be hospitalized for a time after his diagnosis, so that vets can stabilize his condition. Even after your dog is able to go home, you will still need to take steps to manage his condition. 

If your dog is suffering from high blood pressure, blood clots or fluid accumulation in the tissues, your vet will administer the appropriate treatments for these conditions. Your dog might need fluid therapy or antibiotics. Dietary changes are usually necessary; most dogs with nephrotic syndrome must eat diets low in sodium and protein. Your dog may also need to follow strict exercise restrictions.

Dogs with nephrotic syndrome must remain under veterinary care. Your dog will need to see the vet for a follow-up at least once every three months following his diagnosis and initial treatment. During these follow-up appointments, your vet will monitor your dog's kidney function with blood tests and urinalysis. Blood pressure and weight should also be measured and tracked throughout your dog's treatment.

You will need to keep a close eye on your dog for a recurrence of symptoms. Make sure to administer all medications prescribed by your vet, and to carefully follow any dietary or exercise guidelines given to your dog.