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What is glomerulonephritis?

The glomeruli are small masses of blood vessels in the kidneys that are involved in filtering waste products from the blood. About one million glomeruli are located in each kidney. They are a major part of the functional unit (the nephron) of the kidneys. "Nephritis" means inflammation of the kidney. Glomerulonephritis is the inflammation of the glomeruli of the kidney. Glomerulonephritis is associated with an immune response, the reaction of the body to an antigen (a substance that induces the formation of antibodies). The glomeruli respond by increasing the number of cells (cell proliferation) and thickening; if this process persists, kidney failure can occur.

What causes glomerulonephritis?

Many cases of glomerulonephritis are of unknown cause (so called, idiopathic glomerulonephritis). Primary glomerulonephritis has not been documented in dogs or cats. Glomerulonephritis usually is a secondary condition associated with several infectious and inflammatory diseases. The following diseases have been associated with glomerulonephritis:

In dogs:

In cats: 

What are the signs of glomerulonephritis?

The signs of glomerulonephritis vary, depending on the severity of protein in the urine. Protein leaks into the urine when the kidneys are damaged. Abnormal protein in the urine is discovered on routine urinalysis in many pets with no outward signs of illness. The first signs that occur may be related to an underlying infection, inflammation, or cancer. Signs associated with mild to moderate protein in the urine usually are nonspecific and include weight loss and lethargy. If protein loss is severe, accumulation of fluid (fluid retention or edema) in the limbs or abdomen often develops. If the glomerulonephritis continues, signs such as excessive urine output (polyuria), excessive thirst (polydipsia), lack of appetite, nausea, or vomiting may develop.

How is glomerulonephritis diagnosed?

Glomerulonephritis is diagnosed by a good medical history, thorough physical examination, laboratory tests, and kidney biopsy. Complete blood counts (CBCs), blood chemistries, and urinalysis will detect abnormalities, including low protein in the blood and high protein in the urine. Kidney biopsy (removal and examination of kidney tissue) may be done to confirm diagnosis. Radiographs (X-rays) or ultrasound of the abdomen do not detect glomerulonephritis; however, these tests are useful in evaluating other kidney diseases. Abdominal ultrasound also can be used to guide the biopsy needle when obtaining kidney tissue.

How is glomerulonephritis treated?

Pets with glomerulonephritis can be treated at home or in the hospital, depending on the severity of the signs. Activity should be restricted and the animal should rest as much as possible. A high quality, low protein, salt-restricted diet should be provided. The most effective treatment is elimination of the substance (antigen) causing the immune response. Eliminating the antigen often is difficult to accomplish because it may be impossible to identify the antigen. Even if the antigen is identified, it may be impossible to eliminate it. Drugs that suppress the immune system often are prescribed.

What is the prognosis for animals with glomerulonephritis?

The pet with glomerulonephritis may survive for a time, but long-term prognosis (outcome) is guarded. If the underlying cause cannot be identified and corrected, glomerulonephritis often progresses to long-term (chronic) kidney failure.

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.


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