Your dog's health depends on a variety of factors, but one of the key ones is their body's ability to digest food and make use of the nutrients it provides. When a dog's digestive system isn't functioning as it should, serious health issues can result.
PLE stands for Protein-Losing Enteropathy. Rather than a specific disease, this term describes a group of diseases that cause an excessive loss of protein from a dog's gastrointestinal tract. It can lead to a number of potentially serious health issues for the affected dog and, if left untreated, can be fatal.
However, if the underlying disease causing PLE can be treated, the outlook for your pooch can be substantially improved.
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Signs and Symptoms of Protein-Losing Enteropathy
Considering just how serious PLE can be, it's important to be able to recognize the warning signs and act on them as quickly as possible. However, the symptoms of PLE can actually start out being quite subtle at first, but if left untreated, they can quickly escalate into much more severe clinical signs.
Often, the first sign many owners notice is weight loss. Without the protein needed to develop muscle and ensure the normal functioning of many cells within the body, your dog might start to shed those pounds. This can occur quite rapidly and is a surefire indication that all is not right with your pooch.
Many dogs with PLE also suffer from chronic diarrhea, which can also contribute to their weight loss. Lethargy, a decreased appetite, fussy eating habits, a swollen abdomen and even breathing difficulties (due to a buildup of fluid between the lungs and the chest wall) are also common symptoms of PLE.
If you notice your dog showing any of the symptoms of PLE, book them in for a check-up with your veterinarian as soon as possible. It's worth pointing out that the symptoms of this condition can also be associated with a wide range of other medical issues, so your vet will be able to help you get to the bottom of your pet's problems.
- Low tail carriage
- Dropped Ears
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Difficulty breathing
The Science of PLE
There are many diseases and conditions that can potentially cause PLE and, generally speaking, they can be split into two, broad categories: lymphatic diseases and diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract.
The lymphatic system is responsible for carrying white blood cells, proteins, and fats, and it plays a crucial role in your dog's immune system. Lymphatic diseases that can lead to PLE include:
- Lymphangiectasia. This is a dilation of the lymph vessels and causes lymph to leak back into the intestines. Protein is then excreted rather than being digested by the body.
- Lymphoma/lymphosarcoma. Cancer of the intestinal tract can lead to PLE.
- Congestive heart failure. Heart failure can lead to increased pressure within the lymphatic system.
Some of the diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract and can cause PLE include:
- Gastroenteritis. Viral, bacterial, and fungal infections can all damage and inflame the gut, reducing its ability to absorb protein. Examples that fall into this category include parvovirus and salmonella.
- Parasitic infections. Intestinal worms can cause serious problems for your dog's digestive system.
- Ulcers. Ulcers in the stomach or intestines can damage a dog's gastrointestinal lining
- Inflammatory bowel disease. This causes inflammation and results in the intestinal lining being less effective at absorbing protein.
- Food allergies. An adverse reaction to food can irritate and inflame a dog's gastrointestinal system.
When a dog suffers from PLE, rather than absorbing sufficient protein to function normally, that protein ends up being excreted. And when a dog loses more protein than they take in, this can have serious consequences for their overall health.
It's also worth pointing out that certain breeds are at a higher risk of suffering PLE, including the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier, Basenji, Poodle, Maltese and Shar Pei.
Diagnosis and Treatment of PLE
If you notice any of the symptoms of PLE, get your pet to the vet for a full check-up. Your vet may need to call on a range of tests and tools to diagnose the condition, including everything from blood tests and fecal examination to abdominal ultrasounds, x-rays, and biopsies of the stomach and intestine.
Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a cure for PLE. Instead, the focus is on treating the underlying condition causing the problem. As a result, treatment varies widely depending on the underlying disease present, but your vet will be able to advise you on the best course of action. Diuretics may be prescribed to reduce the buildup of fluid, while in severe cases, a blood transfusion may be required.
Lifestyle changes will also need to be made to make the condition more manageable. The key focus is on dietary changes that reduce the fat in your dog's diet and aid digestion, and, once again, your vet will help you work out an effective management plan.
Dogs can continue to live happy lives with PLE but the prognosis is varied. The seriousness of the condition and the treatment options available will both contribute to the overall outlook for your dog, so speak to your veterinarian to find out more.
How to Manage PLE:
Your vet will advise you on what steps you need to take to help manage your dog's condition.
Dietary management is a crucial component of caring for a dog with PLE. By restricting the amount of fat in your dog's diet, you can increase the protein content of lymph and also improve its flow.
Your vet will be able to recommend a food that is highly digestible — some hypoallergenic dog foods may be suitable as they contain hydrolyzed proteins, which are easier for the digestive system to absorb.
You may also need to provide vitamin supplements for your pet to help overcome any vitamin and mineral deficiencies caused by PLE.
Administer any necessary medications as instructed by your vet.
Monitor your dog's physical needs to gauge how much exercise they need and can comfortably cope with. Let your pooch set the pace and never ask them to do too much.
Visit your vet regularly for ongoing check-ups.