Back to Client Info Index

Question and Answer


Understanding Your Pet's Medical Diagnosis

What is amyloidosis?

Amyloidosis is a group of conditions characterized by deposits of a certain type of protein (amyloid) in organs and tissues. These abnormal protein deposits negatively affect the organs and tissues involved. The kidney, liver, spleen, adrenal glands, pancreas, or gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestines) can be affected. Overall, amyloidosis is an uncommon disease in domestic animals. It occurs more commonly in dogs and is rare in cats, with the exception of the Abyssinian.

What causes amyloidosis?

The abnormal protein (amyloid) is produced by the body in response to long-term disease processes, such as infections, chronic inflammation, or cancer. Causes of amyloidosis include:

What are the signs of amyloidosis?

Signs of amyloidosis depend on the amount of amyloid present, the response of the body to the amyloid deposits, and which organs are affected. Most frequently, the clinical signs are related to kidney disease. The pet may have a poor appetite, be lethargic, have excessive thirst or excessive urination, or have mouth ulcers. Weight loss or emaciation, vomiting, and diarrhea may occur. The abdomen or limbs may retain fluid. If the liver is involved, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin) may develop. If the lungs are involved, the pet may have difficulty breathing. Chinese shar peis may have a history of previous joint swelling and high fever that lasted only a few days.

How is amyloidosis diagnosed?

Amyloidosis is diagnosed following a good medical history, thorough physical examination, and diagnostic testing. Complete blood counts (CBCs), blood chemistry panels, and urinalysis are performed. Additional urine testing may be done; the urine is collected over a 24-hour period to evaluate the amount of protein spilling into the urine. Radiographs (X-rays) or ultrasound (visualization of deep structures of the body by recording ultrasonic waves) may be required. Biopsy (removal and examination of a sample of tissue) of the kidney may be necessary to differentiate amyloidosis from other kidney diseases. Amyloid deposits can be seen under a microscope. Special stains can be used to help diagnose amyloid deposits.

How is amyloidosis treated?

The treatment of amyloidosis varies, depending on the underlying cause, the severity of the clinical signs, and which organs are affected. Pets with seriously affected kidneys or dehydration should be hospitalized for initial treatment. Dehydration should be corrected with administration of intravenous fluids (through the vein). Stable animals and pets with no protein in the urine can be cared for at home. Diet changes may be prescribed; pets with kidney failure need a diet restricted in phosphorus and moderately restricted in protein. Pets with high blood pressure (hypertension) should be fed a salt-restricted diet. Underlying diseases should be identified and treated, if possible. Some medications may be helpful in controlling amyloid deposits. The pet will need daily monitoring of its appetite and activity. It should be weighed weekly. Follow-up blood testing and urinalysis (for protein) will be necessary.

What is the prognosis for animals with amyloidosis?

The prognosis (outcome) for animals with amyloidosis is guarded. It is a progressive disorder. Generally amyloidosis has been present for a long time prior to the diagnosis, increasing the amount of organ damage. Complications of amyloidosis can be serious and include kidney failure, high blood pressure, liver rupture, and severe bleeding or blood clots. Survival times for dogs with affected kidneys ranged from three to 20 months in one study, although occasionally some dogs may live longer. Cats with kidney failure related to amyloidosis usually survive less than a year. However, mildly affected cats may not develop kidney failure and may have an almost normal life span.

The majority of the information in this page is has been taken from VetMedCenter.com. For further information about this useful source of informtion follow the link or look, on the internet, at www.vetmedcenter.com.


Back to Info Index