What is Intestinal Tract Disease (Lymphangiectasia)?
The lymphatic system has various functions. Normally, it carries waste from tissues to the bloodstream, absorbs fats after digestion, and provides an immune defense to several areas of the body. With the disruption caused by lymphangiectasia, the usual function of drainage is disrupted and the proteins, fats, and white blood cells leak into the intestinal tract. The benefits which are normally realised are lost in the process, resulting in a life-threatening illness.
Lymphangiectasia is an intestinal disease whereby the lymphatic fluid of the body is leaked into the gastrointestinal tract. The condition results in a loss of protein from the body and can lead to your dog becoming seriously ill.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Intestinal Tract Disease (Lymphangiectasia) in Dogs
Some of the signs of lymphangiectasia can be intermittent. Do not assume that your pet is feeling better because of the lack of consistency in the symptoms. If your pet is exhibiting any of the following signs, a visit to the veterinarian is warranted.
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Fluid accumulation in tissues of the limbs (peripheral edema)
- Fluid in the pleural space (ascites)
- Abdominal swelling
- Congenital, possibly due to abnormal lymphatic vessel development
- Occurs later in life, perhaps due to an obstruction of the lymphatic outflow or venous hypertension
Causes of Intestinal Tract Disease (Lymphangiectasia) in Dogs
The reason for this condition is not fully known and cannot always be determined with each case. Some of the causes for the lack of outflow of lymphatic fluid, whether congenital or acquired, are thought to be the following:
- Inflammation of the intestine
- Right sided congenital heart failure
- Obstruction of vessels in the thoracic duct
- Intestinal cancer
- Dilation of the blood vessels
- Breeds predisposed are Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier, Norwegian Lundehund, Maltese, Shar Pei, and Rottweiler
Diagnosis of Intestinal Tract Disease (Lymphangiectasia) in Dogs
Intestinal tract disorders are usually diagnosed through the process of elimination of other diseases that have the same presentation. For example, hypoadrenocorticism could account for the distended abdomen that may be obvious in your dog. Heartworm disease could be suspected, as could hypoalbuminemia, which causes changes in the protein levels in the blood. Food allergies, irritable bowel disease and cancer are other diseases that your veterinarian will rule out by process of elimination.
Your veterinarian will begin with a physical examination that will include palpation of the lymph nodes to look for enlargement or the presence of a mass that could be causing an obstruction. The abdomen will be checked also, for masses that may explain the distention. A urinalysis and fecal smear will be standard procedure, in order to determine if there is bacteria or parasites causing the illness.
Other diagnostic tests that will be performed are a complete blood count and biochemical verification of the blood. Thoracic radiographs will evaluate the condition of the heart, and verify if there is any fluid accumulation. An ultrasound may show if there are visible abnormalities in the organs. An electrocardiogram will check for heart disease. Endoscopy or laparotomy are other tests that could be done, but the laparotomy is known to be a procedure that has a high occurrence of postoperative complications. Additional tests that can prove to be valuable to the diagnosis are the fine needle aspirate, whereby the fluid that is withdrawn is examined under a microscope. A biopsy of the gastrointestinal tract can show tissue changes or damage.
Treatment of Intestinal Tract Disease (Lymphangiectasia) in Dogs
The treatment will depend on the condition of your dog when he arrives at the clinic. In order to stabilize your pet, anti-inflammatories and diuretics may be administered to reduce inflammation and control fluid build up.
Diet will be a very important part of the treatment because due to the lymphangiectasia, your dog is most likely already malnourished from loss of nutrients in the intestine. A combination of corticosteroids and strict dietary changes will be prescribed. The steroid (most likely prednisone), in combination with a highly digestible diet will be a lifelong change necessary for your pet’s well being. Restoring protein levels is key to recovery, as is limiting the amount of inflammation in your dog’s intestinal tract.
Recovery of Intestinal Tract Disease (Lymphangiectasia) in Dogs
Because of the changes that must be so carefully be followed and maintained even though there is no cure in sight, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. Your veterinarian can prescribe the proper food regimen required to keep your pet as healthy as possible. Do not change the diet without discussing it with the veterinarian first, and voicing your concerns or reasons for the change. Medication, in the form of a low daily dose, could be a needed drug protocol for life. Remission of a few months to a few years is possible.
Intestinal Tract Disease (Lymphangiectasia) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
10 year old Jack Russel, presenting complaint, pleural effusion and low protein.
After undergoing x-rays, blood tests and an ultrasound the diagnosis from the vets was a protein losing enteropathy caused by Lymphangiectasia. My vet told me to feed him a hydrolyzed diet, Royal Canine Ultamino. He would not eat it so vet said he could have duck or salmon. In order to get all of his pills in him we have to hide them in pieces of duck. I have another vet who told me to feed him GI low fat dog food and give him 1/2 teaspoon of MCT oil twice a day? He won't eat hardly at all? How do we get meds into him?
At this point, in order to get Max to take his pills, you may need to use a bit of gentle (if not stern) force; it can be distressing to get owners to give pills directly into their loved ones mouth and hold the muzzle up and rub their neck until they swallow, but in some circumstances it is the best course of action so that the pills at least are being taken, if done well Max will learn the routine and will be more familiar with the process. Speak to your Veterinarian about the best way to perform this. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Neither duck or salmon are low fat proteins. Strict adherence to a low fat diet is the basis for the treatment of lymphangiectasia.
Salmon is a slow and easily absorbed protein - my dog was diagnosed at 3 years old she is going on 12 years, and for a rottweiler that is amazing. That is what she eats.She has had her ups and downs, this is not a disease for the week of heart but she is still with us.
Add a comment to Max's experience
Was this experience helpful?
Our Bella has been diagnosed with Lymphangiectasia whereby in her case, the lymphatic fluid of the body is leaked into the gastrointestinal tract. She has been put onto a strict low fat diet and medication consisting of Medrol 4mg,Azapress 50mg and Meditrich.Her albumen is staying constant at 15 however, draining of the fluid on weekly basis is required as the vet is concerned that the fluid will go into her lungs. What else can be done/checked for, as her condition after 2 months treatment does not seem to be improving?
Add a comment to Bella's experience
Was this experience helpful?
My dog has protein, blood, transitional cells,, a few crysatals, and sediment in his urine. His albumin moves up and down, from almost critically low to low normal. He coughs quietly, makes a snapping sound with his mouth, has poor appetite. He is taking temerolP, which helps his appetite. He groans at night. One of his eyes has has a runny discharge that started two weeks ago. Yesterday he peed twice inside, which is very unusual for him. This constellation of symptoms has been occurring for three months. What do you think it is?
Add a comment to Mickey's experience
Was this experience helpful?