Amyloidosis in Dogs

I have a beagle and was just reading about health problems this breed can encounter. One disease that was mentioned was amyloidosis. I have never heard of this before. How worried do I need to be that my dog might get this disease?

amyloidosis-in-dogsAmyloidosis occurs when proteins called “amyloid” are deposited outside of cells in various tissues and organs, causing tissue and organ dysfunction. It is an uncommon condition in dogs. While certain family lines of beagles seem to be predisposed, there is no clear genetic profile in the affected dogs. The majority of dogs diagnosed with amyloidosis are older than 5 years of age, although the age range at diagnosis can be from 1 to 15 years of age. It appears that the risk for developing amyloidosis increases with age.

What are the symptoms of amyloidosis?

The symptoms of amyloidosis depend on the organ system that is affected, and kidney involvement is most common. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, lethargy, increased thirst and urinating, weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea. In some cases, fluid will build up under the skin, in the abdomen, and/or in the chest cavity.

If the kidneys are involved and amyloidosis progresses, the dog may develop signs specific to kidney failure including:

  • Mouth ulcers
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Ongoing vomiting
  • Dehydration

Up to 40% of affected dogs will develop blood clots in their blood vessels, and depending on the location, there may be clinical signs. These dogs may develop difficulty breathing or weakness in a rear leg.

 

What causes amyloidosis?

There must be a family predisposition for amyloid to be deposited in the tissues, but it can be triggered by chronic infection, chronic inflammation, and certain types of cancer.

 

Is there any treatment for amyloidosis?

If the dog with amyloidosis develops kidney failure, hospitalization with IV fluids may provide a way to stabilize the condition. Once stabilized, the dog may be able to tolerate outpatient management focused on kidney support with appropriate nutrition and medications. Some dogs with amyloidosis also develop hypertension (high blood pressure) that should be treated. Any underlying condition like cancer, infection, or inflammation should be treated if possible.

Ongoing monitoring of organ system function, fluid balance, and blood pressure will be important in dogs with amyloidosis. Any emerging symptoms can then be treated as soon as they are identified. Amyloidosis is a devastating disease, and if the kidneys are affected, the prognosis varies from 3 – 20 months.

 

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Robin Downing, DVM, DAAPM, DACVSMR, CVPP

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