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Lymphangiectasia in the soft coated wheaten terrier
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Lymphangiectasia in the soft coated wheaten terrier

Dogs
Health & Safety

The soft coated wheaten terrier is a small and not very commonly seen dog breed from the Kennel Club’s terrier group, and which originates from Ireland where they were historically prized as good, versatile all-round working dogs that were used for everything from herding and guarding to hunting vermin.

This is a small breed with a big personality and a very typical terrier temperament, which manifests with bags of tenacity, a strong prey drive, high energy levels and high intelligence. Soft coated wheaten terriers also have bags of endurance and are very difficult to divert once they set their minds on something, which can also make them quite a handful to manage!

Soft coated wheaten terriers are outgoing, bold, fun loving and affectionate, and make for very good pets for owners that understand the core terrier traits and know how to get the best out of their dog. The breed as a whole also tends to be robust, healthy, and lead a relatively long lifespan, with the average age reached by dogs of the breed being around 12-15 years.

However, like virtually all pedigree dog breeds, there are a number of health conditions that the soft coated wheaten terrier has elevated risk factors for, and this is something that all owners and would-be owners of dogs of the breed should be aware of.

One of the conditions that affects soft coated wheaten terriers more than most other dog breeds is called lymphangiectasia, and this is a condition that causes an inflammation of the lymph nodes of the dog’s intestinal tract, which can be acute and very serious.

In this article we will look at lymphangiectasia in the soft coated wheaten terrier dog breed in more detail, covering the symptoms, risk factors and treatment options for the condition. Read on to learn more.

What is lymphangiectasia?

Lymphangiectasia is a health condition that occurs in the lymphatic vessels, which are responsible for moving lymph fluid that is rich in white blood cells around the body. Lymph fluid is circulated through the lymphatic vessels, where they remove waste materials and bacteria from the body, and move fat out of the small intestine into the blood circulation.

In dogs with lymphangiectasia, the lymphatic vessels of the gastrointestinal tract expand and become dilated, causing an obstruction of the normal movement of the lymphatic system, which in turn leads to the body losing vital protein via the intestines. This will make the dog very ill, and left untreated, can be fatal.

Why does the soft coated wheaten terrier have elevated risk factors for lymphangiectasia?

There are two different forms of lymphangiectasia, which are called primary and secondary respectively. It is primary lymphangiectasia that the soft coated wheaten terrier has elevated risk factors for, and the primary form of the condition develops because of a congenital defect or hereditary predisposition to the condition that occurs within the soft coated wheaten terrier breed.

Why the soft coated wheaten terrier has higher than normal risk factors isn’t known for sure, but there are a range of triggers, conformation problems and external factors that can lead to the onset of lymphangiectasia. These include swelling of the lymph nodes, accumulation of fluids in the lungs, chest or abdomen, and blockages of the thoracic duct.

What are the symptoms of lymphangiectasia in dogs?

The symptoms of lymphangiectasia in the soft coated wheaten terrier can be difficult to identify, and even harder to attribute correctly to their root cause. Symptoms can be quite variable in terms of their severity, and may come and go intermittently too, making it even harder to reach a firm diagnosis.

Your vet will need to examine your dog and run some tests to make a diagnosis, and some of the symptoms of lymphangiectasia in the soft coated wheaten terrier that you may see at home include:

  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Lethargy and lack of interest in play and exercise.
  • Dehydration.
  • Diarrhoea for no obvious reason.
  • Fluid accumulation and swelling of the limbs
  • A painful abdomen.
  • A persistent cough.
  • Vomiting or regurgitation after eating.

Can lymphangiectasia in the soft coated wheaten terrier be cured or treated?

Exactly how your vet goes about treating a soft coated wheaten terrier with lymphangiectasia will depend on how acute the condition is, how far is has progressed, and the impact that it is having on the dog in question.

First of all, your vet will need to stabilise and monitor your dog, and they may use painkillers, anti-inflammatories and fluid therapy in order to achieve this. Dietary changes and the use of corticosteroids will help to bring the condition under control, and these changes and potentially, medications will need to be maintained and reviewed regularly throughout your dog’s life.

Monitoring your dog’s protein levels and keeping an eye on the inflammation of the dog’s digestive tract are vital too, and even a dog with well controlled lymphangiectasia will need careful care and management for the remainder of their life.

Because dogs that have a parent or close relative with lymphangiectasia are exponentially more likely to inherit a propensity for the condition themselves, affected dogs should not be bred from.

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