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Glomerular Disease in Dogs

Reviewed by Dr. Celeste Clements, DVM, DACVIM on Monday, May 11, 2015
Posted March 20, 2015 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

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Glomerular disease (chronic kidney disease) occurs quite commonly in dogs. It affects purebreds and mixed-breeds alike, and can be an inherited disorder in certain breeds. According to those breeds include:

Does glomerular disease have other names?
Veterinarians use a number of different terms interchangeably when describing “glomerular disease.” I’ll warn you in advance that none of them are easy to pronounce:

  • Glomerulopathy
  • Glomerulonephropathy
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Protein losing nephropathy

What are glomeruli and why should you care?
To understand glomerular disease, it’s important to first understand glomeruli. Each kidney contains millions of glomeruli; microscopic filtration units that interface with the blood vessels that supply the kidneys. I like to think of glomeruli as a tiny sieve or colander because the size of glomerular pores dictate which substances within the blood are allowed to enter into the fluid that ultimately becomes urine. Normal glomeruli do not allow larger protein molecules such as albumin to pass into the urine.

Glomerular damage causing glomerular disease
Glomerular damage is what leads to glomerular disease. The most common means by which glomeruli are damaged include:

  • Inflammation, particularly that which is immune mediated (autoimmune) in nature
  • A form of scarring referred to as glomerulosclerosis
  • Persistent high pressure blood flow to the kidneys (elevated blood pressure)
  • A protein problem called amyloidosis

What problems are associated with glomerular disease?
Glomerular damage may be present at the very earliest onset of kidney disease, well before there are other measurable laboratory changes or symptoms typically associated with kidney disease. Moreover, dogs with glomerular damage are far more likely to develop significant illness and/or death as a result of their kidney disorders1. In other words, glomerular disease, particularly when left untreated, hastens the progression of chronic kidney disease.

Glomerular damage can arise as a primary disease process, or it can occur as a result of another underlying disease. Diseases commonly associated include:

When glomeruli are damaged, they become “leakier,” thus allowing large protein molecules to filter into the urine (proteinuria).

Symptoms of glomerular disease
Persistent proteinuria (increased protein within the urine) is a hallmark characteristic of glomerular disease.

In and of itself, protein loss in the urine does not cause any symptoms. This is why many dogs with glomerular disease, particularly early on, appear completely normal. When symptoms do arise, they are usually related to one or more of the following:

  • The underlying disease process causing the glomerular damage (see the list above)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Complications associated with glomerular damage (high blood pressure, decreased protein in the bloodstream, blood clot formation)

Some common symptoms observed in dogs with chronic kidney disease disease include:

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Nancy has more than 30 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified veterinary specialist in internal medicine as well as a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2014.