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What is Familial Kidney Disease?

Familial kidney disease is the term used when it is not understood how the disease is inherited, but the occurrence is more frequent in related dogs than would be expected. There are multiple dog breeds that experience a range of kidney diseases where it is thought that the conditions may be inherited. In some of these conditions, the kidneys will function normally at birth but will start to deteriorate early in the dog’s life, ultimately leading to kidney failure. How fast the disease progresses will vary based on the breed and the particular dog.

Familial kidney disease refers to multiple conditions that result in the deterioration of the kidneys in dogs where the mode of inheritance is not known or confirmed.

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Symptoms of Familial Kidney Disease in Dogs

Should your dog have familial kidney disease, you may observe that he drinks and urinates more. In really young dogs, it may look like the dog is not picking up on housetraining. As the kidney function decreases, other symptoms may become apparent to include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Gums are pale (as a result of anemia)

In familial kidney disease, kidney dysfunction will usually be present before the dog is one year of age; kidney failure will typically occur before the dog reaches five years old. Should the dog be affected prior to five months of age, his growth may be significantly stunted.

Types 

There are multiple types of familial kidney disease to include:

  • Familial glomerulonephritis - Occurs in Bernese mountain dogs and is thought to be autosomal recessive
  • Familial glomerulonephropathy -  Occurs in Doberman pinschers and inheritance is unknown
  • Renal dysplasia -  Occurs in Golden Retrievers, Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers, Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu and is thought to be autosomal recessive; in Rottweilers, the disease occurs though its inheritance is unknown.
  • Familial nephropathy -  Occurs in Norwegian Elkhounds and its mode of inheritance is unknown
  • Renal Telangiectasia - Seen in the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and its mode of inheritance is unknown
  • Juvenile nephropathy - Occurs in the Miniature Schnauzer and its mode of inheritance is unknown
  • Renal amyloidosis - Seen in the Shar-Pei and its mode of inheritance is unknown
  • Polycystic kidney disease - When it occurs in Bull Terriers, dogs may not show symptoms until they are two years old or older

Causes of Familial Kidney Disease in Dogs

In familial kidney disease, the mode of inheritance has not been confirmed, though in some diseases of some breeds, there is an idea of how it occurs. In hereditary kidney disease, the cause of the condition has been identified and confirmed.

Diagnosis of Familial Kidney Disease in Dogs

If you see concerning symptoms in your dog, it is a good idea to take him to your veterinarian for an examination. Your veterinarian will ask you for details regarding the symptoms you have observed, when you first noticed them and any changes that have occurred. 

The symptoms of familial kidney disease can result from multiple causes, which your veterinarian will have to rule out. After conducting a physical examination, your veterinarian will conduct blood and urine tests. When a dog has a form of kidney disease, high levels of nitrogen-containing compounds will typically be seen in their blood, as well as high levels of phosphate in their serum.

Their urine will often show that it has not been concentrated by the kidneys and nonregenerative anemia will be seen. An abnormally high amount of protein will point to hereditary nephritis and may occur before symptoms are seen. A renal biopsy is typically necessary to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of Familial Kidney Disease in Dogs

Your veterinarian will focus on treatment to maintain your dog’s hydration and electrolytes and slow the progression of the particular disease. You will want to be sure that your dog always has fresh drinking water available and a high quality, low protein diet will be recommended. Your veterinarian will consider medications that will help support your dog’s kidney function. Management will include regularly monitoring as would occur in dogs with chronic renal failure.

Recovery of Familial Kidney Disease in Dogs

Regular monitoring of your dog will be recommended by your veterinarian. This will allow your veterinarian to keep an eye on progression of the kidney disease in your dog and make any necessary treatment changes. Your veterinarian will also help you in determining the time when your dog’s kidney function has deteriorated to where euthanasia is the most humane choice for him.

It is recommended that a dog with a familial kidney disease not be bred, nor should their parents. If you are looking to breed a dog that is related to the dog that has kidney disease, the dog should be tested for protein in his or her urine, as this is an early indication of kidney disease.