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Amyloidosis in Dogs

Reviewed by Dr. Celeste Clements, DVM, DACVIM on Thursday, September 3, 2015
Posted September 04, 2015 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

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What is amyloidosis?
Amyloidosis is an infrequent condition in dogs that occurs when proteins, at a cellular level, are deposited abnormally in sheets. These abnormal deposits cannot be dissolved and resist normal digestion and breakdown. When these misfolded proteins are deposited into various tissues and organs in the body, “they are called amyloid1,” and damage/replace normal cells. Minor deposits of amyloid can be associated with normal aging, but extensive deposits can cause significant and sometimes fatal disease1.

What causes amyloidosis in dogs?
Luckily, amyloidosis is a relatively unusual disorder in dogs. A congenital form of the disease is recognized in Chinese Shar-Pei dogs2 who have periodic fever and inflammation, but the most common form of amyloid originates from a protein that is formed in response to inflammation that is not genetically programmed. That means that any condition that causes severe inflammation can trigger the deposition of the abnormal proteins, including1:

Signs that your dog has amyloidosis
Remember that the amyloid deposits can occur in any location in the body–sometimes in one place and sometimes all over. In small amounts, no damage occurs and no disease is apparent. It is only when the deposits interfere with normal organ function that clinical symptoms appear, and then they are related to the failure of the specific, affected organ system2:

  • Liver disease with liver amyloidosis
  • Kidney disease with renal amyloidosis
  • Skin disease associated with cutaneous amyloidosis

Diagnosing amyloidosis in your dog
Your veterinarian will first diagnose your dog with a specific organ based disease or disorder, and will then have to determine that the problem is the result of amyloidosis—which can be very difficult. Amyloidosis can be suspected when organ dysfunction (such as kidney or liver failure) develops in animals that have been dealing with chronic inflammatory or infectious diseases1. The only way to definitively diagnosis the presence of amyloidosis is to obtain biopsy samples of the affected tissues for microscopic examination with special stains.

Related symptoms: 

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.