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What are Intestinal Protein Loss?

Animals absorb essential nutrients such as protein through their intestines, especially the small intestine. The small intestine is creased and folded with projections called villi that increase the available surface area for absorption. A healthy animal should be able to absorb most or all of the useful components of their food. Sometimes, a food allergy or anything causing inflammation of the gut can flatten these villi and/or impair the complete absorption of nutrition. This can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and electrolyte imbalance. Contact and schedule an appointment with a veterinarian immediately if you notice your dog has vomited, passed irregularly soft stool, or seems to be losing weight. Intestinal disorders often come on very gradually, and treating them before they become more severe is the best course of action.

Protein-losing enteropathy (PLE), sometimes referred to as intestinal protein loss, is a failure to absorb sufficient protein present in the animal’s diet. Thus, it is “lost” during waste excretion. Malabsorptive disorders such as PLE can indicate inflammatory bowl disease (IBD), food allergy, intestinal cancer, intestinal infections/parasites, heart conditions or rarely in conjunction with a pulmonary thromboembolism. Many malabsorption disorders are idiopathic and can only be managed rather than fully treated.

Intestinal Protein Loss Average Cost

From 68 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,400

Symptoms of Intestinal Protein Loss in Dogs

  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Bloated uncomfortable abdomen (fluid in the abdomen)
  • Difficult breathing (fluid in the chest) (Heart problem)
  • Decrease in muscle mass
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors and abnormal behavior (resulting from low blood calcium)
  • Excessive urination
  • Uncharacteristic lack of energy
  • Fluid buildup in tissues (edema) - you will notice this in your dog's legs and feet
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Causes of Intestinal Protein Loss in Dogs

  • Food allergy
  • Infection in the intestines, this can arise in many shapes and forms including:
    • Salmonella - Bacterial
    • Fungal
    • Viral (Parvo)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Parasitic infection - hookworms, whipworms
  • Ulcers in the stomach or intestines
  • Lymphangiectasia
  • Pulmonary thromboembolism (rare)
  • Intestinal Neoplasia - lymphoma, adenocarcinoma
  • Congestive herat failure
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Diagnosis of Intestinal Protein Loss in Dogs

Take your pet to the veterinarian’s office for any gastrointestinal upset that does not resolve by the next meal given. Be prepared to give a detailed medical history of your pet, including any medications, recent surgeries or dietary changes. If you make your pet’s food at home, yourself, or are attempting to feed your dog a vegetarian diet, share this with the veterinarian as well. In all likelihood, the veterinarian will request a stool sample for gastrointestinal complaints, so it can speed up the diagnosis to collect one prior to visiting the veterinarian.

The veterinarian’s main goal will be to differentiate protein-losing enteropathy (PLE) from numerous other conditions that present with similar symptoms. Many times, PLE presents as a symptom of a broader gastrointestinal ailment. First, a physical examination of your dog may reveal loss of muscle mass and fluid accumulation in body cavities (abdomen/chest). The veterinarian will feel for abnormalities in your dog’s abdomen. Blood tests will show if the blood protein (albumin and globulin) is low, as well as if the calcium and cholesterol is low. An analysis of the dog’s urine can rule out protein-losing kidney disease. An ultrasound the abdomen if often recommended. An ultrasound is a helpful noninvasive tool for viewing the inside of the body without bulky or expensive equipment. The veterinarian will be able to spot bowel inflammation and identify if any abnormalities can be biopsied with an endoscope. An endoscope is a long, flexible tube with surgical instruments and/or a camera on the end. This can be used to take a tissue sample for examination in the lab. Sometimes a laparotomy (abdominal exploratory) is required to get full thickness biopsies of the intestine and biopsies of the lymph nodes to get a diagnosis.

Examination of the pet’s stool can determine whether small or large intestine-based diarrhea is occurring, and the presence of parasites. Small intestine-based diarrhea can indicate PLE. Blood tests can rule out infection or implicate parasites, and an analysis of the dog’s urine can rule out protein-losing kidney disease.

Another helpful clue can be low calcium, a side effect of PLE, and causes tremors, abnormal behavior, and elevated heart rate. Finally, administering an IV radiotracer of 51CrCl3 can identify PLE by measuring how long it takes the radioactive marker (which binds to protein) to be excreted.

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Treatment of Intestinal Protein Loss in Dogs

PLE is best managed by treating the underlying condition if any. Parasitic infections are treated with antiparasitic drugs, IBD with immune system suppressants, surgery and/or chemotherapy for cancer of the bowel, antibiotics for intestinal infections, appropriate medications for congestive heart failure, low-fat diet for lymphangectasia, and in the rare event of a pulmonary thromboembolism, removal of the clot and administration of blood thinners. Idiopathic PLE (not arising from any identifiable cause) is treated in two ways, the first of which is supplementing the animal’s diet with high-quality, easily digestible foods rich in protein and unsaturated fatty acids. Second, an elimination diet can be given to see if a food allergen or component of the animal’s diet is irritating the bowel. This involves systematically replacing certain food items with others and monitoring the animal’s response for improvement.

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Recovery of Intestinal Protein Loss in Dogs

If an underlying cause is not found, idiopathic PLE is a lifelong but manageable condition. Proper supplementation of the dog’s diet with formulas approved by the veterinarian is often successful in providing your pet with a good quality of life, as long as irritating or hard-to-digest foods are avoided. Follow-up appointments should be made every few months to monitor nutrition uptake, weight gain, and blood chemistry (albumin and globulin). Test different exercise schedules for your dog. You may need to adjust the length, time, and difficulty of common walking routes. If your dog is undergoing a new prescription or medication for treatment, be sure to allow your dog a personal space to rest. It's critically important to give your dog time and space to heal away from distractions, especially other pets.

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Intestinal Protein Loss Average Cost

From 68 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,400

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Intestinal Protein Loss Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Jack

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Jack Russell Terrier

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9 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Scummy Eyes
Blood Test Shows Low Protein Level
Weight Loss

I have a 9 yr old male jack Russell terrier [J] who has lost 2kg of weight over the past year. He was over weight before and we have swapped his food to a LIGHT dry complete for the past year. His brother [R] was also swapped over at the same time and has maintained his weight despite the swap. J had a few days where he was vomiting and diarrhoea, but has been OK for the past month. We took him to the vets yesterday and she took a blood test and asked us to get a urine sample - which we HAVEN'T done yet. The vet has just phoned us to say that it shows low protein levels and advised that we get an ultrasound done this week. Would it be safe/better to first get the urine sample done and then see what this says? Apart from the weight loss [over the year] and slightly scummy eyes he is great, full of life, no different from usual. - He walks for 1.5 hrs a day, and could still go on longer - Plays very energetically with the ball whilst on his 1.5 hr walk, still chases squirrels - he hasn't been sick since the few days a month ago - he isn't bloated anywhere - he isn't peeing or drinking more than usual - his stools are hard Just wanted a second opinion as the ultrasound will cost around £800 and just feel like she is being a bit quick to move to this step, esp as he is really well and she hasn't done the urine sample test yet. Thanks in advance.

Jan. 6, 2018

Jack's Owner

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1 Recommendations

I would definitely recommend doing urinalysis first since the test is a simple, quick inexpensive test which would indicate the presence of any protein in the urine; an ultrasound would be valuable to look at kidney structure and to look for any masses within the abdomen but if the low protein is caused by intestinal protein loss then endoscopy with a biopsy may be the best next step (or faecal analysis for protein). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Jan. 7, 2018

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dog-name-icon

Lily

dog-breed-icon

Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

14 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Fluid In Abdomen

My one year old chihuahua was diagnosed w PLD due to Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The internal specialist put her on prednisone and a liquid chemotherapy drug. Its been about 2 weeks and her stomach is filling w fluid again. She has started laying in her crate most of the day and she is usually full of energy. This happened a month ago until dr drained her stomach. We are due for a follow-up on Jan 4th but not sure if i should wait that long to have her seen. Not sure if the chemo and steroid are supposed to stop the fluid build up. Will she need to have her tummy drained often? I feel so bad for her. She is so young to be going through all this. Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated.

Dec. 29, 2017

Lily's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

The prednisone and the chemotherapy medication is to try and reduce inflammation in the bowel as well as any other underlying cause (many causes for intestinal protein loss), but for as long as Lily is losing protein from the gastrointestinal tract she will continue to accumulate fluid in the stomach; spironolactone may be used in some cases to help reduce fluid accumulation in the body (generally more effective than furosemide). If the abdomen is fluid of fluid and it is affecting Lily’s movement, then you should visit your Veterinarian for it to be drained. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Dec. 29, 2017

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Intestinal Protein Loss Average Cost

From 68 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,400

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