Protein-losing Enteropathyphy (PLE) in Dogs

Protein-losing Enteropathyphy (PLE) in Dogs

Health & Safety

Protein-losing enteropathy is a digestive disease that can affect dogs, causing the dog to lose protein from their intestines. This can lead to their body’s protein levels becoming dangerously low, which if left untreated, can prove fatal.

Protein-losing enteropathy can affect dogs of any age and breed, although it is more prevalent across certain pedigree dog breeds than others.

In this article, we will look at protein-losing enteropathy in dogs in more detail, and examine how the condition affects animals, what sort of dogs are most at risk for the condition, and how it can be treated or managed. Read on to learn more.

What is protein-losing enteropathy?

Protein-losing enteropathy affects the dog’s digestive system and stops it from functioning properly, due to damage to the intestines. A wide range of illnesses that affect the intestines can cause the condition to develop; and so it is more of a catch-all term to describe a specific secondary effect of certain intestinal health conditions than a condition in and of itself.

When your dog eats, their food passes through the stomach into the intestines, where the nutrients from the food are absorbed from the bloodstream, and waste products passed from the body in the stools.

One of these nutrients is protein, and small amounts of protein naturally leak back into the intestines from the bloodstream, where in the healthy dog, they are reabsorbed and digested. However, when the intestines are diseased or damaged, they cannot reabsorb the necessary levels of protein, leading to malnutrition and illness.

What sort of dogs are at risk of protein-losing enteropathy?

Protein-losing enteropathy can affect dogs of any breed or type, but it is most commonly diagnosed in the soft coated wheaten terrier, the Yorkshire terrier, the Basenji, and the Norwegian lundehund. The condition can affect dogs of any age, and is equally likely to affect males and females.

What causes protein-losing enteropathy in dogs?

As mentioned, protein-losing enteropathy in dogs develops when an underlying condition affects the intestine’s ability to absorb protein, and so the condition arises as a secondary complication of another underlying health condition.

Some of the intestinal problems that can cause protein-losing enteropathy in dogs include:

  • Intestinal cancer.
  • Intestinal infections.
  • Food sensitivities and allergies that irritate the intestines.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Intestinal ulcers.
  • Hormonal imbalances and problems that affect the body’s lymphatic system.

What are the symptoms of protein-losing enteropathy in dogs?

As is the case with many internal health conditions, the symptoms of protein-losing enteropathy in dogs can be diverse and hard to pinpoint.

Some of the main symptoms that you might observe in a dog suffering from protein-losing enteropathy include:

  • Severe and chronic diarrhoea.
  • Weight loss, even though the dog continues to eat normally.
  • Exercise intolerance and a general lack of energy and interest in physical activity.
  • The abdominal area may appear swollen or enlarged.
  • Some affected dogs may suffer from breathing difficulties or get out of breath very quickly from moderate exercise.
  • Fluid can gather around the extremities, leading to swollen feet and limbs.

Diagnosing protein-losing enteropathy

Your vet will need to conduct a physical examination of your dog, taking into account their medical history, and if they suspect protein-losing enteropathy, they will need to run a range of tests to confirm their diagnosis.

These will usually include blood and urine panels to identify the levels of protein and calcium present within the body, and your dog may also require intestinal and abdominal x-rays and ultrasound examinations to get a better idea of what is going on in the dog’s intestines and if there is an underlying disease or problem present.

Treatment and management

The first step to getting protein-losing enteropathy under control is to diagnose the underlying condition that is causing the problem, and commence treatment for it. If the underlying condition can be treated successfully or properly brought under control, the problem may correct itself – but this is not always the case.

If it is not possible to correct the intestine’s inability to reabsorb protein properly, you will need to manage the symptoms of the condition, and change your dog’s diet to one that is designed to increase the level of protein that your dog’s body can absorb, to correct the effects of the condition.

Your dog will need to be monitored regularly with blood tests and urinalysis to assess the efficacy of the management protocol, and your dog may be prescribed a special veterinary diet that is designed to help to support good health and counteract the negative effects of the condition.

If your dog’s protein levels become dangerously low, your dog may require a blood transfusion to correct this, without which, the condition may prove fatal.

Acting quickly to get a formal diagnosis and begin treatment will give your dog the best chances of recovery and being able to enjoy a good quality of life – so if you have any concerns about your dog’s health, speak to your vet as soon as possible.

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